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Prescription Drug Deaths Continue to Rise

By Orlando Personal Injury Attorney on February 12, 2010

Millions of Floridians take prescription medication to reduce the effects of countless medical conditions. Pharmaceutical companies spend billions in marketing this or that drug in magazines, television, billboards and other outlets telling consumers how effective the drug is at alleviating a wide range of symptoms. But a glance at the front page of any newspaper will tell you that these prescriptions are not always safe. This Orlando Sentinel article sheds light on how dangerous some of these drugs can be.

A recent report conducted on drug-related deaths in Florida indicated that more fatalities occur from people taking prescription medication each year than from heroin, cocaine and other illegal drugs. During the first half of 2009, oxycodone, Xanax, Valium and methadone caused the most medication-related deaths, according to the Florida Medical Examiners Commission. Oxycodone is a painkiller frequently prescribed for everything from broken bones to dental surgery to back pain and many other ailments and conditions. Valium and Xanax are well-known anti-anxiety medications. Methadone has been used for decades to treat heroin addiction.

The Commission found that oxycodone was the cause of 23 fatalities in the Orlando metropolitan area alone, with methadone claiming another 15 lives in and around Orlando. These drugs have been cited as the cause of even more deaths in St. Petersburg and other Florida cities. The Commission found that while communities in Central Florida lagged behind other area for drug-related deaths, the number of fatalities was a huge concern and ways to address the problem are being discussed.

“There’s not a week goes by that we don’t investigate one of these cases,” said Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, recent member of the Florida Medical Examiners Commission.

From January to June 2009, approximately 88,500 deaths were reported in Florida and according to the commission’s report, nearly 4,200 deaths were related to prescription medication. In that same time period, 1,333 fatalities were linked to methadone, Valium, Xanax and oxycodone. The commission found that 236 people died from taking cocaine and 53 from heroin during that same period of time.

The State of Florida leads the nation with the ignominious distinction of being a “pill mill” or a place where medical practices prescribe painkillers in vast numbers whether the patient’s condition warrants this medication or not.

“Doctors are just handing it [the drugs] out like candy on Halloween. And that’s a problem,” Judd said.

James O. Cunningham

James O. CunninghamSince 1977, personal injury lawyer James Cunningham has provided effective legal advocacy to people who are injured through the negligent actions of another person or entity throughout the Central Florida area. He fights to obtain recoveries for his clients’ physical and emotional pain and suffering and pursues his clients’ personal injury cases with a commitment to excellence and impeccable preparation.

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