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Don’t Drive if you are Under the Influence of Prescription Drugs!

  • N.C. statutes say that you’re still DWI even if your Rx was legal
  • 11% of drug-impaired drivers in fatal accidents tested positive for opioids
  • Half of older adults say they take multiple prescriptions yet still drive

don't drive while using prescription pillsMany North Carolina drivers have the false impression that they can legally drive after taking drugs so long as those drugs were legally prescribed. In fact, North Carolina DWI law dictates that driving under the influence of any “impairing substance” is a crime, and having legal permission to consume that substance is not a reasonable defense.

Driving under the influence of prescription drugs is an extremely common problem, not just in North Carolina, but also in the United States as a whole. A report from the Governors Highway Safety Association found that in 2016, 44% of drivers who died in car accidents were flagged as positive when tested for drugs in autopsy.  Roughly 11% of these drivers tested positive for opioids.

Opioids and many other types of prescription drugs can have dangerous side effects on par with (and sometimes worse than) the effects of alcohol or controlled substances. When drivers make the mistake of taking these drugs before getting behind the wheel, they put all North Carolinians at risk.

Victims of car accidents caused by these drivers can receive major injuries and rack up huge medical bills. The unfortunate circumstances surrounding injury accidents often influence the decision to hire a car accident attorney in Charlotte to represent their claims against at fault drivers and their insurers. Experienced injury attorneys are tasked with fighting hard for their clients in order to recover their full compensation that the law provides for injury victims.

You should already know that it is never a good idea to drive if you are under the influence of any drugs, alcohol or other substances that are going to affect how you drive. It is worth noting that the problem of intoxicated driving is still a huge problem!  Consider the following facts about prescription drugs and North Carolina law.

North Carolina DWI Statutes Make No Room for Legally Prescribed Drugs

Even though North Carolina’s DWI statutes don’t mention prescription drugs specifically, the laws are still quite specific about the fact that a legal prescription doesn’t make it ok to drive under the influence.

North Carolina General Statute § 20-138.1. states that, “a person commits the offense of impaired driving if he drives any vehicle upon any highway, any street, or any public vehicular area within this State while under the influence of an impairing substance.”

  • 20-4.01. defines an “Impairing Substance” as follows: “Alcohol, controlled substance under Chapter 90 of the General Statutes, any other drug or psychoactive substance capable of impairing a person’s physical or mental faculties, or any combination of these substances.”

More importantly, the statute goes on to mention a specific “Defense Precluded” clause, which refers to a defense that will automatically be regarded as invalid by the court. The clause states: “The fact that a person charged with violating this section is or has been legally entitled to use alcohol or a drug is not a defense to a charge under this section.”

In other words, North Carolina DWI laws make no exception for any prescription drugs that are “capable of impairing a person’s physical or mental faculties.” The fact that they have been legally prescribed does not make any difference, as far as the law is concerned.

If you are driving under the influence — whether the substance was legally acquired or not — you are breaking the law.

Many Prescription Medications Can Impair Driving

Most people tend to think of legal drugs and illegal drugs in separate categories. The thought goes: “As long as I am not over the legal limit for drunk driving or under the influence of illegal drugs, I can’t possibly be too impaired to drive!”

This thought process is an unfortunate result of a lack of information given to the public regarding the dangers of some prescription medications — and many over-the-counter remedies, as well. While many of these products contain warnings, they are usually not given with the same sense of gravity as a bartender worrying about a patron driving home. Perhaps their manufacturers do not want their drugs to be associated with the same kinds of psychoactive or impairing effects that illegal drugs create, but the result is uninformed decision making that leads to driving under the influence.

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) cautions people to be aware that a broad range of prescription and over-the-counter medicines can negatively affect drivers’ abilities, including: “prescription drugs for anxiety, some antidepressants, some cold remedies and allergy products, sleeping pills, and pain relievers.”

Side effects to watch out for include drowsiness, blurred vision, delayed reaction times, fainting, or disorientation. Some more serious side effects can dramatically affect coordination or create distorted thought patterns that make driving nearly impossible.

Older adults are particularly at risk for these types of side effects because they may be prescribed multiple medicines, some of which may have unanticipated side interactions with each other. AAA reports that nearly 50% of older adults say they take seven or more medications yet still drive regularly. They go on to caution that medicines with impairing side effects or drug interactions can raise a driver’s risk of an accident by 300%.

Ask Your Doctor About Side Effects to Avoid Unsafe Driving

To avoid raising your risk of an accident, avoid taking medications that say “Do Not Operate Heavy Machinery” as a warning label. “Heavy Machinery” includes cars.

Also, ask your physician about whether the medication can result in the inability to drive safely.  It is also always a good idea to make sure that all of your doctors and your pharmacist knows all of the drugs you are taking because of the risk of  unsafe drug interactions if you take multiple prescriptions.

Note that some medications affect different people in different ways, and these effects can also fluctuate based on whether you have eaten, whether you have gained or lost weight recently, and several other variables. You can also develop habits that allow you to take your prescriptions as recommended while following a schedule that makes unsafe driving less likely.

Have You Been in an Accident with a Driver on Rx Drugs?

Not every driver knows that they should not drive on prescription medications, but ignorance is no excuse or defense when you break the law.

If you have been injured by a driver who has tested positive for impairing prescriptions or who may have been using them at the time of the accident, you can work with a car accident attorney in Charlotte, North Carolina to build your case. The impaired driver may be liable for your damages, including medical bills, lost income, vehicle repairs, and pain and suffering.

You can speak with a North Carolina car accident attorney during a free case evaluation when you schedule your free case evaluation today by calling 704-364-3361 or our convenient online contact form.

You visit the doctor when you aren’t feeling well. In some instances, the physician will prescribe you a drug that they believe will alleviate or cure your symptoms. Typically, being prescribed a medication is nothing to worry about. The doctor writes the prescription, you get it filled, and you go home to start taking your pills.

In some cases, things don’t go as planned. You take your medication only to find that it causes severe side effects. While you had planned on perhaps a headache, you were not ready for what you are dealing with. But you should have been.

When a drug company or medical provider fails to provide adequate warning with regard to a possible side effect of a medication, the responsible party can be held legally liable for any injuries or complications caused by the medication. While all of these instances can’t be prevented, there are steps you can take to help ensure that you aren’t harmed by a prescription drug. The best thing you can do is this: Talk to the pharmacist.

1. Does Everything Match Up?

Before you walk out of the pharmacy, confirm with the pharmacist that the medication and its dosage were the ones written by the doctor. If something doesn’t match up, the pharmacist can investigate the issue and make the necessary changes.

2. How Do You Dose the Medication?

This is a good question to ask if you aren’t sure of the proper dosing method. For example, you don’t want to rely on a spoon from your kitchen drawer if the medication is liquid. You run the risk of either under- or overdosing the medication. Ask for the right tools to use with your prescription.

3. Are There Tamper-Proof Caps Available?

If you have children in the house, you should always ask for tamper-proof or child-proof lids for your medication. These certainly aren’t a guarantee, but they will make it more difficult for your child to get into the bottles.

4. What Side Effects Can I Expect?

You won’t know if a side effect of your medication is common or “normal” unless you ask your pharmacist. Most of us don’t read the literature that comes with medication. Is it normal to experience a headache? Should you expect to become dizzy? Your pharmacist can let you know what side effects require immediate medical attention.

No one expects to become ill or experience severe medical reactions when they take a prescription medication but it can happen. When a drug manufacturer or medical provider fails to warn a patient about possible interactions or side effects, they can be held accountable. Patients who experience serious side effects or issues when taking a prescription drug may be able to join a class action lawsuit or file one of their own.

If you have experienced issues with a prescription medication in Charlotte, reach out to our office. We have a team of attorneys that are ready to assist you. Call today to schedule an appointment for a free case evaluation.

Women who are pregnant will do whatever it takes to make sure that their babies come into the world healthy. Unfortunately, women don’t always know which prescription medications may be dangerous to their unborn children. There is list of drugs that can cause harmful side effects to infants, and Zofran is one of them.

Zofran is a drug used to curb morning sickness. The FDA has recently learned that the medication can cause septal and orofacial defects, stillbirths, kidney malformation, and congenital heart defects. Here is more about what you can do if your child experiences symptoms.

Suing for Birth Defects

When an infant is born with birth defects, parents have much more on their minds than filing a lawsuit. At times, it can be difficult to determine what led to the birth defect. If it is discovered that a prescription medication like Zofran caused the defect, its manufacturer can be held liable. For a successful lawsuit, you must be able to prove one of the following:

Design Defects: The drug poses a foreseeable risk that the company knew about but ignored, even when it is manufactured and taken as it was intended.

Manufacturing Defects: There was a mistake made during the production of the medication.

Warning Defects: The company knew about issues with the drug but failed to warn the public.

When it comes to Zofran, the drug was originally approved as one to treat nausea in chemotherapy patients. GlaxoSmithKline, the drug’s manufacturer, illegally marketed the drug to medical professionals as effective for treating morning sickness.

Filing Your Lawsuit

No two birth defect lawsuits are exactly alike due to the nature of these health concerns. There are still general factors to take into consideration when you file a lawsuit over a drug you took during pregnancy.

The first thing to know is that you may be able to file more than one type of lawsuit. Not only can you sue the drug manufacturer, but you may be able to file a medical malpractice claim as well. If a doctor prescribed teh drug for a purpose not approved by the FDA or did not warn you about the potential side effects, the doctor failed to perform with the acceptable standard of care.

It’s also important to understand the statute of limitations. The clock starts ticking quickly, but it is specific to the type of claim you are making and the state you live in.

If you or your child has been injured by a dangerous drug in North Carolina, call our team of medical malpractice attorneys. We will review the details of the injury and advise you of your options under current state law. Call now for a free case evaluation and discover how you may secure compensation for your injury.

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tan and red pillsVolunteers sign up for drug trials by the thousands every year. Whether college students need a bit of extra money or patients are hoping for a cure, there are a variety of reasons why people are willing to risk their health. Unfortunately, five people in France did more than just risk their health when they took part in the trial for an experimental painkiller.

One person was killed and five others were hospitalized, allegedly as a result of the drug manufactured by Bial, a pharmaceutical company in Portugal. The six were among 128 people who volunteered to take part in the study.

The company’s drug was touted as a treatment for anxiety and motor disorders. The drug’s target is the endogenous cannabinoid system. This part of the body is one that controls pain. The drug was administered at a private medical center in France and supervised by doctors.

An investigation conducted into the death and injuries determined that the medical facility ran the trial appropriately. They also found that Bial and Biotrial, the company running the trial, were at fault. According to the report, fault included the drug’s dosage to volunteers, the length of time it took to inform the government of the issues, and a failure to properly inform other volunteers of the issues.

Authorities have given both companies a month to get everything fixed and into compliance. If the companies fail to do this, the trial will be suspended. The report also made it clear to the companies and the public that there may be a separate judicial inquiry into the trial, the injuries and the death.

Many people understand that there are dangerous drugs in North Carolina. Unfortunately, not all of these drugs are sold on the street corner. Always be mindful of signing up for any type of clinical trial. Even though this event occurred overseas, it could happen here. There are safer ways to make money and, if you are a patient hoping for a cure, you should always speak with your primary physician before volunteering for a trial.

If you have been injured by a drug in North Carolina, you may be entitled to compensation under the law. Call our office today for a free case evaluation. We will advise you of your options and help you take the next steps.

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Have you ever seen someone on the verge of a drug overdose? Medical professionals see it frequently. Some see it so frequently, in fact, that they can tell by looking at someone’s face what they are overdosing on.

Opiate abusers on the verge of overdosing have constricted pupils, are itching their skin, are turning pale and their skin is becoming clammy. Their fingernails and lips are turning blue or purple, and they are starting to make choking noises. When doctors see these signs, they know it is time to act quickly.

If doctors are so well versed in opiate overdose, why does one occur every 19 minutes in the United States? And why do doctors continue to prescribe these drugs for pain management when there are alternatives available?

It is known that some pharmaceutical companies misled the FDA. They downplayed the risks of opioid addiction in order to sell more drugs. It is also known that our own government has thrown up so many roadblocks that studying other therapies has become difficult at best.

In the same way that doctors write prescriptions for antibiotics far more than is necessary, medical professionals are writing prescriptions for opioids at an alarming rate. Even worse, those who have recovered from overdose are often able to receive another prescription for the drug, and often from the same doctor that issued the original prescription.

The short-term use of opioids and other dangerous drugs in North Carolina may be beneficial for severe pain caused by surgery or trauma. Long-term use for the management of chronic pain is something that needs to be considered a health risk. These drugs are highly addictive, and long-term use can be dangerous. Unfortunately, living pain-free is not always possible, and doctors should make their patients aware of this.

When you visit a medical professional, you believe that you will be taken care of properly. Unfortunately, medical errors happen and negligence occurs. If you believe that you or a loved one has been the victim of medical malpractice, you need an experienced attorney like Auger & Auger on your side. Call today for a free case evaluation and let us advise you of your options.

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