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Whom should we blame for the opioid crisis?

Imagine your mother suffered from chronic migraines. She tried everything to treat them—over-the-counter medication, acupuncture, physical therapy—but nothing seemed to work. Nearly every day of her life was filled with incapacitating pain. Finally she went to a doctor who prescribed OxyContin® to treat her condition. It was like a miracle drug. After years of suffering, she was finally able to resume life as normal.

But then things took a turn. In order to remain pain-free, she began requiring increasingly frequent dosages of the drug. One day, she inadvertently overdosed, which proved to be fatal.

If this happened to your mother, whom would you blame? Would you be angry at the doctor who initially prescribed the opioid? Would you assign responsibility to the drug manufacturer for marketing a dangerous, highly addictive medication? Or would you blame government regulators for allowing such drugs to be sold?

In a previous post, we discussed the aftermath since President Trump announced a state of emergency over the opioid crisis last October. Since that time, more than 250 lawsuits have been filed against opioid manufacturers by state, county and city governments.

But not everyone is pointing fingers at the drug companies. Ohio’s Stark County is taking a different approach: it’s going after the doctors. The county’s police department recently indicted a local doctor on 272 counts connected to overprescribing opioids. If convicted, he could be sentenced to decades in prison.

In the face of tragedy, it’s natural for victims to want justice and restitution. But who should be held accountable for the opioid crisis? Are the drug manufacturers solely to blame, or do doctors have a responsibility to fully investigate any drug they prescribe—even if the manufacturers provided insufficient warning about its dangers? It’s a complex question. Tell us what you think.

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