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Opioid-related deaths are rising. Should pharmacies share some of the responsibility?

Simply put, opioid addiction is a huge problem in the United States. In fact, according to a report in The New York Times last month, as many as two million individuals in the U.S. may be dependent on various types of opioids, including oxycodone (OxyContin), hydrocodone (Vicodin) and fentanyl.

Thanks in large part to this drastic increase in opioid addiction, drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death among Americans under the age of 50, according to the same New York Times report. And even though preliminary estimates indicate that more than 59,000 people died in the U.S. as a result of drug overdoses in 2016 alone, 2017 looks even worse -- with early data showing overdose deaths increasing at an alarming rate.

So whom should we blame?

The opioid problem has gotten so bad, that some states such as Ohio and Mississippi have decided to sue the drug makers, claiming they contributed to the problem by using marketing campaigns that misled both patients and doctors about the dangers of opioid addiction.

Authorities have also spent a great deal of time and effort shutting down pain management clinics -- also known as pain centers -- who have been freely prescribing opioids for years.

But what about pharmacies? Should they share some responsibility for the opioid addiction problem -- and the death it causes -- or can they simply say, "We just fill the prescriptions; we don't write them."

Is it fair to hold pharmacies accountable, particularly if they continue to fill prescriptions written by doctors known for providing too many prescriptions, and patients die from overdoses as a result? In many cases, the medications may have been initially prescribed legitimately, but at a certain point, there may be several obvious red flags of addiction. So when should pharmacies be responsible?

Unfortunately, as this blog indicates, there are far more questions than answers when it comes to pharmacy liability for opioid-related deaths. What do you think? Are there situations in which a pharmacy should be liable for an opioid-related wrongful death?

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