Medications like Xanax and Valium, known as benzodiazepines, will carry new warnings about risks of abuse, misuse, addiction, physical dependence, and withdrawal reactions, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said in a news release. The update will be added to the black box warning already on the label of benzodiazepines, which warns that using benzos with opioid painkillers can increase the risk for profound sedation, respiratory depression, coma and death.

“While benzodiazepines are important therapies for many Americans, they are also commonly abused and misused, often together with opioid pain relievers and other medicines, alcohol and illicit drugs,” FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn, MD, said in a statement. “We are taking measures and requiring new labeling information to help health care professionals and patients better understand that while benzodiazepines have many treatment benefits, they also carry with them an increased risk of abuse, misuse, addiction and dependence.”

Pharmacies dispensed about 92 million benzodiazepines in the United States in 2019. The most common include Xanax, Klonopin, Valium, and Ativan. The drugs are used to treat general anxiety disorder, insomnia, seizures, social phobia, and panic disorder. They are also given prior to some medical procedures. Dosing and frequency depend on the patient, the indication, and the medication given. Physical dependence on benzodiazepines occurs when the medication is taken steadily for days or weeks.

Opioid abuse has reached epidemic proportions in the United States. According to the Department of Health & Human Services, 12.5 million people misused prescription opioids and 33,091 Americans died from opioid overdose in 2015 alone. These medications provide important pain relief for many. However, over the years, drug companies inflated the effectiveness of delayed-release medications like OxyContin and downplayed their addictive properties, creating conditions ripe for abuse.

But the people are fighting back. Dozens of cities, counties and states across the nation have filed similar lawsuits. Beasley Allen is representing multiple local governments in Alabama against both manufacturers and distributors of opioids to hold them responsible for the increased costs related to the opioid crisis.

Opioid litigation

Lawyers in Beasley Allen’s Toxic Torts Section are representing local governments holding opioid companies accountable for overdose deaths and economic damages in their communities caused by this crisis.

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