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Painkillers are a diverse group of analgesic drugs that are used to relieve pain. Painkillers achieve analgesia (pain relief) by acting on the peripheral nervous system (nerves and neurons) and the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord). Painkillers range in strength from mild (like Tylenol) to strong (like morphine) so as to provide pain sufferers with the appropriate amount of pain relief.
Addiction to prescription painkillers has gained increased notoriety throughout the United States in recent years. Prescription painkillers like oxycodone (opioid analgesic medication) and hydrocodone (narcotic analgesic) are at the forefront of efforts being made by the U.S. Government to inhibit some of the factors making it easier for Americans to develop such addictions; notably, easy access to prescription drugs via the Internet and the over-prescribing of analgesics by doctors.
Types of Painkillers
There are a wide variety of painkillers that are used in effort to achieve analgesia. The major classes of painkillers include:
- Paracetamol (acetaminophen)
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- Narcotics (morphine)
- Neuropathic pain symptoms (Anti-depressants – Paxil, Wellbutrin, Prozac)
An “analgesic ladder” was approved by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1990. The ladder recommends the stepwise introduction of stronger analgesics when weaker ones prove ineffective. The ladder suggests the following course of action in achievement of analgesia:
- Paracetamol is the first step in pain management (Tylenol, Anacin, Datril)
- When paracetamols prove ineffective, NSAIDs (ibuprofen, aspirin) are used.
- In cases of extreme pain, a strong opioid (morphine, oxycodone, fentanyl preparation) is used.
The “analgesic ladder” was initially introduced for the purpose of managing cancer pain; however, it has since been applied to most fields of medicine.
Side Effects of Painkillers
Drugs are designed with the intention of chemically altering the natural processes of the body in one way or another. As such, side effects are quite common. Whereas some side effects are minor and relatively rare, there are others that can be extremely serious, often leading to serious personal injury or death.
COX-2 inhibitors have been getting a great deal of attention lately because of the adverse side effects associated with use of the painkillers. A category of NSAIDs, COX-2 inhibitors have been linked with the possible development of a variety of mild to severe side effects. The most serious of these side effects, which are now known to occur with some frequency, are cardiovascular side effects and Stevens Johnson Syndrome, a serious allergic skin reaction. These side effects depend on the patient and his or her dosage. The cardiovascular side effects include myocardial infarction (heart attack), thrombosis (blood clots) and stroke. These serious cardiovascular conditions, along with the occurrence of Stevens Johnson Syndrome, have led to close scrutiny of all COX-2 inhibitors and the recall of two of them.
The three most notorious COX-2 inhibitors are Vioxx, Celebrex and Bextra. Both Vioxx and Bextra have been removed from the market because of the severe nature of the side effects caused by drug use. Celebrex has not been recalled, though the drug has been linked with a variety of cardiovascular side effects in addition to Stevens Johnson Syndrome.
Painkillers and Personal Injury
Drug manufacturers are responsible for ensuring the safety and efficacy of their products before marketing them for public consumption. Failure to do so is considered negligent and grounds for pharmaceutical litigation. The Pensacola personal injury attorneys of Aylstock, Witkin Kreis & Overholtz handle national litigation across the United States for victims injured by defective pharmaceuticals and medical devices. They have successfully represented and obtained substantial compensation for a number of patients who have been harmed by drugs. Contact AWKO law today at (844) 794-7402 to get more information about your rights as a painkillers injury victim.