Last year an estimated 72,000 people died of overdoses. That’s more deaths than from H.I.V., gun violence or even car crashes. For most, the drug of choice was heroin or some other opioid.
There are lots of theories as to who is responsible. Drug cartels, big pharma, pill pushing doctors, lax law enforcement and even the addicted themselves. We are not going to lay all the blame on the addicts, but there is certainly plenty of blame to go around.
Our mission is to hold pharmaceutical companies responsible for their part in this national epidemic. And for even those who died of a fentanyl or heroin overdose, the blame can often be traced back to big pharma.
There are many lawsuits which have been filed on behalf of states, counties, cities and Indian nations. Those have been consolidated into what the federal court calls a Multidistrict litigation. State and local governments want to recoup the money they spend responding to daily overdoses.
As a boutique law firm, we have a different approach. We want to take a few individual cases to trial. Cases where big pharma can be exposed and held accountable.
In this post, we tell the story of Carla Alexandra Peña, a beautiful and bright young woman fighting for her life. It isn’t the story of big pharma, however.
So why are we telling Carla’s story?
There are several reasons, it is a heart rendering story of two parents fighting for their child. It is a story of how opioids wreck families and shatter lives, a story of misperceptions by the public and it is a story of hope.
We know one of the parties in this story making it especially painful. Unfortunately, with addiction cutting across all races, ages and socio-economic groups, many people will also personally relate to this story. Families across America are ripped apart when a family member or loved one suffers from addiction.
Carla is 29 today. And still hanging on.
This story begins in March when her mother Gail was visiting and found a burnt spoon among Carla’s possessions. Burnt spoons are indicative of heroin use. Addicts “cook” the heroin on a spoon using a lighter until it liquifies. Once liquid, it can be drawn into a needle and injected.
How Carla became addicted remains a mystery. Some folks get addicted to pain pills and then when they can’t get pills or the pills cost too much, they switch to cheaper heroin and fentanyl. By then, they are already addicted to opioids.
For others, there first use of an opioid is with heroin, although early users frequently smoke, inhale or “snort” and to not use needles.
Regardless of how Carla got hooked on heroin, she was probably long addicted by the time her parents discovered the problem.
In April, Carla was hospitalized with an open wound associated with intravenous drug use. Her doctor was fearful that it would turn septic, an often fatal side effect of an untreated infection. Mom paid for the antibiotics but the prescription was never picked up. Her mother believes that her boyfriend may have used the money for drugs.
A week later, Carla told her mother that her leg was turning black. On May 6th, Carla was checked into Parkview Medical Center in Pueblo, Colorado “urine soaked and lethargic.” She was dying. According to court papers, she was “suffering a life-threatening septicemia, infective endocarditis, pneumonia, renal compromise, and was, without medical intervention, within hours of death.”
Mom says that while Carla was hospitalized, Carla’s boyfriend Kyle Monson smuggled in heroin into the hospital. Monson denies the allegations.
Mom claims that Monson convinced Carla to leave the hospital.
On May 16th, Carla was at a hospital in Colorado Springs where court records say that the infection had reached her heart. She was placed in ICU. Mom says that her prognosis was poor. Her heart stopped during emergency surgery but Carla had enough strength to pull through.
She would remain hospitalized for weeks but was ultimately discharged.
How is she today? Going through rehab and still fighting. We know many people who have been through rehab. Sometimes it works the first time and sometimes it takes several attempts. Until Carla has several years of sobriety, we will worry.
Carla had parents willing to fight for her. They helped get a court order to get her to rehab and have filed a lawsuit against her boyfriend. They say that he brought her the heroin.
We applaud her mother for not giving up and especially Carla. Unless someone is strong and wants help, all the court interventions, lawsuits and recovery programs won’t work. Carla is the real hero in this story, she is still fighting. And in that fight, there is hope.
Earlier we stated our goal to bring a few targeted cases against the pharmaceutical companies that we believe helped so many people get addicted. It is a classic story of profits before patients. Pharmaceutical companies make huge profits. We need pharmaceutical companies but they have an ethical obligation to not exploit the suffering of others.
Finding a client that overdosed isn’t a problem, unfortunately. Finding the right case is, however. More on that below. There are hundreds of thousands of Americans suffering from opioid dependency. And just like Carla, everyone has their own story.
The real problem in bringing these cases is with public attitudes. Until addiction strikes your family or someone you love, we tend as a society to blame the victim.
When we read Kaitlin Durbin’s story of Carla in the Gazette, we were stunned by the public comments to the story.*
One reader said, “I have no sympathy for people who make wrong decisions in their lives. People have choices to make in life. Some GOOD and some BAD. But if you choose to be a DRUG ADDICT or be with an abusive person. That is your fault.”
Another suggested the parents were suing out of revenge and to “assure themselves it wasn’t their fault.” Yet another simply wanted to call Carla a “junkie” and showed zero compassion.
A fourth wrote, “When you do drugs, you have to face the consequences of your actions. Plus the damage drugs do to you physically and mentally.”
This is why taking these cases is so tough. Of course, we are accountable for our own actions. I am both a former street cop and prosecutor. No one can ever call me soft on crime. But the public often has a one dimensional view.
As a cop I have seen people dead from overdoses and knocked on doors to tell families that their son or daughter was dead.
Opioid addiction is a societal problem. It must be attacked from all angles.
Should we hold addicts responsible? Yes but for their illegal behavior and not their addiction. And as a former drug court prosecutor, there are ways to punish offenders and rehabilitate them at the same time. Drug dealers? Absolutely, these folks get no sympathy from me. But what about the pharmaceutical companies that peddle their own junk?
Thus far they have escaped accountability. There is a time and place for opioids. Breakout pain, short term use after surgery and for end of life hospice patients in excruciating pain. They were never meant for most pediatric use and for maintenance or long term therapy. Yet they were often marketed that way.
Looking for Prescription Painkiller Overdose Cases
We are currently looking for a few select cases involving patients who have almost died from taking prescribed opioids or who suffered horribly from heroin or pills and who became addicted while taking legally prescribed opioids.
We will also consider cases involving babies born with neonatal abstinence syndrome.
Our preferred case will involve juveniles improperly prescribed opioids by a physician or veterans who became addicted after recovering from combat wounds.
Why these cases? If it looks like we are cherry picking, we are. Every addict has a story. And everyone deserves help. Given jury attitudes today, however, we want to insure the early individual cases against the greedy drug manufacturers succeed. These cases will affect public perceptions for years to come and we certainly don’t want to give big pharma a win.
There are hundreds of thousands of addicts struggling each day. And tens of thousands that die each year. We can’t take phone calls, if you know of a loved one who died or who is suffering horribly like Carla, email us a brief synopsis of the facts. We promise one of our attorneys will personally review each.
For more information, contact us online or by email at . We regret that cannot accept phone calls.
If you work for a pharmaceutical company or pill mill and have inside information about illegal marketing or over dispensing of prescription narcotics. Contact us as well. We are a recognized national whistleblower law firm. We help concerned healthcare workers shut down pill mills and collect a whistleblower reward for their efforts.
In the time it took to read this, another family lost a loved one to an overdose.
*Hats off for the Gazette and journalist Kaitlin Durbin for breaking this story. When Durbin asked Kyle Monson for his side of the story, he hung up on her. Monson’s mother then called back and said she would “sue with everything I have and make your life miserable” before hanging up herself. We have no idea how this story will end, but we will report back on this page. Whatever happens with the parents’ lawsuit, Carla remains in our prayers. We hope her recovery program works.