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Doctors Using Potentially Risky Drug to Treat Back Pain

August 6th, 2018
By Zach Christiansen of The Bowling Christiansen Law Firm, A Professional Law Corporation posted in Medical Malpractice on Monday, August 6, 2018.

NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana. According to the New York Times, doctors sometimes use Depo-Medrol, a drug meant to alleviate muscle pain, in patients suffering from back pain. While the drug is not approved for spinal use, as doctors have moved away from prescribing opioids, they have turned to alternatives that can sometimes pose their own share of risks. Depo-Medrol is one such drug seeing increased use. Depo-Medrol, when used in the spine, is associated with risk of blindness, stroke, paralysis, and death. Unfortunately, according to the Times, patients and their doctors may not always be aware of this risk. While opioid prescriptions can be risky, doctors and their patients need to be careful when using alternatives.

The opioid epidemic has been deadly. According to the Times, in the last year alone, 45,000 people have died. Many blame the epidemic on the role that major pharmaceuticals played in pushing the drugs as safe, and others blame regulators for failing to limit the ways in which the drugs were prescribed. Yet, now that the epidemic is out in the open, the same drug companies that manufactured drugs leading to the epidemic, might be making other, possibly dangerous drugs available.

According to Medicare, the number of back pain patients receiving steroid injections has increased by 13 percent. Yet, Pfizer, the company who manufactures Depo-Medrol allegedly wanted the FDA to ban the drug for this type of off-label use. Reports indicate that the company asked for the ban because it feared lawsuits. When even the drug company fears lawsuits, it gives some indication of the potential risk the drug can pose.

Some medical professionals may be giving the shots to patients because they don’t want the risk of prescribing them opioids, and also because the shots can bring in quite a bit of revenue when they are administered. Doctors also play a role in the risks that these drugs pose–not just the drug companies manufacturing the shots.

More alarming is that some of the doctors administering the shots have only received weekend training in how to perform the procedure. These shots must be injected near the spinal cord, which poses added risk of complications. The risk of a mistake can lead to spinal cord injury, quadriplegia, paraplegia, cortical blindness, and even stroke.

In some cases, patients are told that they cannot receive opioid painkillers unless they receive these injections. This can put patients in a tough position where they must choose between undergoing a potentially dangerous procedure and experiencing pain relief.

According to WebMD, Depo-Medrol is used to treat pain associated with arthritis. The drug can also be used to treat certain allergic reactions, immune system disorders, and other reactions.

If you or a loved one has suffered an adverse effect due to the use of prescription drugs off-label, you may have certain rights under the law. The The Bowling Christiansen Law Firm are medical malpractice lawyers in New Orleans, Louisiana who work with victims and their families to help them seek settlements under the law. You could be entitled to receive damages to cover medical costs, lost wages, and pain and suffering damages. Visit us at to learn more.

The Bowling Christiansen Law Firm, A Professional Law Corporation

1615 Poydras Street, Suite 1050

New Orleans, Louisiana, 70112

Phone: (504) 586-5200

Toll Free: (504) 586-5200

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