The estate of a woman filed a wrongful death lawsuit against her doctor, a New York mail-order pharmacy, and a pharmaceutical company. The woman was given Subsys, a fast-acting opioid fifty times more potent than heroin. Fifteen months later, she was found dead in her home. The pharmaceutical company makes Subsys, a brand-name version of fentanyl. While pharmaceutical fentanyl has been used in surgery and prescribed to late stage cancer patients, it is not a safe long term treatment. The pharmaceutical sales representative convinced the woman to take the fast acting prescription drug every four hours, six times a day for her chronic pain. The drug comes with a “black box warning,” which is the strictest warning used by the FDA on prescription drug labeling. The Food and Drug Administration uses this label when there is credible evidence of a serious hazard.
Wrongful death cases present serious allegations before the court. A wrongful death cause of action must include the death of a human being caused by negligence or with intent to cause harm as well as suffering by the surviving family members. In the wrongful death case filed by the woman’s estate, the legal team must prove the doctor was careless in the level of care provided which led to her death. This case also assigns guilt to the pharmaceutical company which is accused of prescribing and influencing doctors to prescribe a “black box warning” drug improperly. The wrongful death expert witness is called upon to sift through the evidence and provide an unbiased opinion as to responsibility. These professionals provide testimony as to whether the defendants failed in their responsibility to consumers and patients.