Opioid Prescription Overdose Causing Death - Grayson
The Grayson Case
A pain management specialist, currently in federal prison for illegally prescribing opioid pain medication, prescribed one of his legitimate pain management patients a lethal dose of opioids which caused his death at age 23.
In his late teens, Ira Grayson was involved a severe car accident that resulted in numerous surgeries on his left leg including subsequent surgeries from compartment syndrome. As a result, he was left with chronic leg pain.
Ira was also diagnosed with severe obstructive sleep apnea. This is where an individual’s breathing is slowed and stopped repeatedly during sleep.
When Ira was 23, he began treating with the Defendant pain management specialist where he was hoping to get relief from his chronic page pain.
As it turns, out, unbeknownst to Ira, the Defendant pain management specialist was running a fraudulent, illegal Oxycodone and Opana opioid pill operation out of his office. Tragically, Ira was a victim of the Defendant’s money making scam. In fact, the Defendant is currently serving an 11-year prison sentence for prescribing unnecessary opioids, for violating federal narcotics law, and for health care fraud. To that end, following Ira’s death, it was later discovered that:
- When the Defendant began prescribing unnecessary oxycodone, his patient load expanded from 200 to well over 1000 patients.
- The Defendant, who added two waiting rooms to accommodate all his new patients, saw up to 150 patients per day.
- Due to the volume of patients, the Defendant would spend two to three minutes with a patient and would quickly write them prescriptions for powerful opiates, even though he rarely checked them medically;
- During one six-day period, an employee said staff collected $60,000 in cash from patients.
- “As long as you’re cool as a cucumber, you can get your meds from me,” the Defendant was quoted as saying to an undercover Pittsburgh detective during her 3 minute and 10 second “exam”. He was also on the record for telling an undercover DEA agent “the further away from (my) office that (the agent) went, the easier it would be to get the prescription filled” as 70% of pharmacies in Western PA had stopped filling his prescriptions.
- When he was finally arrested for over prescribing pain medication, the street price of a single painkiller tablet doubled from $20 to about $40.
- The Defendant was so well known for prescribing narcotics that 87 area pharmacies refused to fill his prescriptions, and one had a sign in the window warning away anyone with a script from his office.
- According to an Assistant U.S. Attorney, Ira’s death was a factor in the plea agreement that imprisoned the Defendant for over 11 years;
- Because the Defendant was seeing so many “patients” per day, he admitted that had no way of differentiating between his fake “patients” (who were drug seekers) and his real patients like Ira who had genuine pain management issues.
Here, because of seeing 150 patients per day, when Ira first came to his office, the Defendant never took the time to obtain copies of Ira’s medical records from Ira’s PCP or any hospitals which would have alerted the Defendant to Ira’s severe obstructive sleep apnea, history of traumatic injury, and his history of chronic, intractable leg pain. Instead, assuming Ira was a drug seeker, the Defendant prescribed his usual opioid cocktail of 40 mg of Opana and 30 mg of Oxycodone.
Narcotic opioid pain medications such as Oxycodone and Opana, even in small doses, are known to slow a person’s breathing. Therefore, when a patient has severe obstructive sleep apnea, which causes breathing to be stopped repeatedly during sleep as it is, the use of opioids even as low doses is very, very risky. So when a patient like Ira is given incredibly strong, powerful doses of both Oxycodone and Opana, the risk of dying during sleep is extremely high.
Roughly 6 months after beginning to treat with the Defendant, while on vacation in Maryland, Ira was found unresponsive and in full cardiac arrest. He was taken by ambulance to Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring, Maryland where he did not respond to any life-saving interventions and tragically died in the emergency department. An autopsy was performed by the Chief Medical Examiner of the State of Maryland who determined the only cause of death to be “oxycodone toxicity”. He was 23-years old.
We brought suit against the Defendant pain management specialist and his practice group. The Defendant had the state required minimum medical malpractice insurance limit of $1,000,000. His practice group did not have any liability insurance, and by that time of the lawsuit, his practice group had already folded as the Defendant was sentenced to federal prison.
After we field suit, we took the Defendant’s deposition in federal prison in West Virginia. During the deposition, the Defendant and his insurance lawyer acted in disbelief that the lawsuit was filed and as if the Defendant was wrongfully imprisoned. Due to the limited hours permitted for a deposition in federal prison and the long-winded nonsensical answers being given by the Defendant, we had to ask the court for a second day for the deposition to continue which was fought by the insurance lawyer. A second day was granted by the court. The Defendant and his insurance lawyer again acted apoplectic despite being confronted with the filings from his federal criminal case which included transcripts of DEA agents who posed undercover as the Defendant’s “patients”, interviews with the office staff indicting the Defendant, and the transcript from the plea deal where the Defendant admitted to his conduct.
The case settled shortly thereafter for a confidential 7-figure settlement. All of the Defendant’s personal assets were seized by the federal government.