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Prince's death shines light on fentanyl's drug injuries

Prescription medication safety sounds as if it should be a rather straightforward matter. If a drug is both effective and unlikely to cause harm to the patient when taken as prescribed, many people in Ohio perceive it to be a safe medication. However, dangerous medication and drug injuries are far more complex than this, which was recently demonstrated by the fentanyl-related death of pop singer Prince.

Prince's April 2016 death was far from the first to be linked to the painkiller fentanyl. At up to 100 times more effective and potent than prescription morphine, it is commonly prescribed for patients suffering from the pain associated with advanced stage cancer. While its effectiveness was once celebrated, fentanyl's safety has been sharply questioned. It takes only a quarter of a milligram to fatally overdose on the prescription drug.

Between 2013 and 2015 alone, over 700 people in America died by overdosing on fentanyl. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency estimates that there are far more deaths related to fentanyl that go unreported, especially since it is not standard to test for the drug unless medical examiners are expressly asked to do so. Accidental deaths are only one part of the equation. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed about 4,600 emergency room visits for seizures caused by fentanyl in 2014.

Fentanyl does not have to be ingested in order to be fatal, and inhaling the medication or even making skin contact can result in a deadly dose. Drug injuries and deaths are strikingly common for fentanyl users, but many patients remained largely unaware of the risk until Prince's high-profile death. Ohio families who have lost loved ones to drug injuries might be able to find justice and achieve related-recourse on behalf of their family members' estates by pursuing civil claims, if negligence is established.

Source: NBC News, "What Is Fentanyl? The Drug That Killed Prince Has Killed Thousands of Others", Alex Johnson, June 3, 2016

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