Misuse and abuse of alcohol, prescribed drugs, and over-the-counter preparations cause numerous cases of illness, injury, and death every year. Even the ostensibly appropriate use of a medication can be dangerous if other medications are used at the same time or if the person using the drug is at risk for toxicity due to illness, a genetic condition, or other factors. Fortunately, the toxicity databases for alcohol and licit and illicit drugs are generally quite large. Cambridge Environmental is frequently consulted to determine the role of such agents in causing injury or death, as the examples below indicate.
Fatalities ascribed to fentanyl transdermal patches
Fentanyl, an opioid pain reliever and sedative, can be delivered through a drug-filled patch that is adhered to the skin. These patches can be abused or misused, causing drug overdose and death. Cambridge Environmental scientists consulted in several lawsuits regarding these patches, assessing the roles of habituation to fentanyl or other opioids, dosing rate and frequency, concomitant drug use, drug delivery-rates from allegedly damaged patches, and post-mortem distribution.
Cardiovascular toxicity of a lactation suppressant
Parlodel®, containing the active ingredient bromocriptine, was once widely used after childbirth to prevent lactation in women who did not wish to breast feed. The post-partum period is also a time when women are at higher than normal risk for several adverse cardiovascular events, due to rapid physiologic changes. Numerous women, or their survivors, brought suit against the Parlodel¨ manufacturer, blaming the drug for injuries or deaths occurring during or after use of the drug. Cambridge Environmental scientists conducted exhaustive reviews of the toxicologic and epidemiologic data pertaining to the drug, related compounds, and post-partum injuries, evaluated plaintiffs' medical records and drug use in relation to the data, and assisted the manufacturer in defending against the claims by acting as consulting and testifying experts.
Effects of alcohol and marijuana
Post-mortem examinations of two people who died in a house fire revealed alcohol and marijuana in the blood. Cambridge Environmental evaluated these data in light of the dose-response information for ethanol and marijuana to determine whether the people's ability to respond to and escape from the fire was impaired.
In other cases, we have assessed likely behavioral consequences of specific blood alcohol concentrations (BAC's); back-calculated amounts of alcoholic beverages consumed given specific time-frames and BAC's; and evaluated the likely role of marijuana-smoking with regard to an accident.