In an ongoing lawsuit against the NFL, a number of questionable practices for dispensing prescription medications have been revealed. The case is a class lawsuit filed by former players against the NFL and all 32 individual football teams. The case is currently pending in federal court in the Northern District of California. There are currently 1800 former players listed in the suit.
In the lawsuit the players allege individual teams improperly dispensed prescription medications to them, causing substantial long term damage. The allegations of improper conduct include:
- Allowing team trainers, rather than team physicians to order and dispense prescription drugs, most notably Toradol, Vicodin and opiates;
- Failing to warn players of potential adverse side effects or the possibility of long term damage through repeated use of the drugs;
- Failing to comply with FDA and DEA regulations for recording dosages supplied to each individual.
What the Lawsuit Has Uncovered
Allegations in the lawsuit go back to the 1990’s and are claimed to be ongoing. So far, evidence has uncovered that NFL teams dispense certain drugs far in excess of that given to the general population. For example, in 2012, it is estimated that each NFL team, on average, gave more than 5700 doses of anti-inflammatory medications, including Toradol. In addition, teams dispensed more than 2200 doses of other medications per year, mostly pain killers.
In addition, according to a 2010 NFL Physicians Society report, trainers for a majority of teams were assuming responsibility for dispensing prescription medications, rather than team doctors. At least once team’s trainer approached both the coach and team physicians to claim the players were at a competitive disadvantage when not prescribed certain drugs. Some would seek to have anti-inflammatory prescriptions prior to game play.
Other allegations in the complaint include team doctors failing to identify side effects of the medication. This was admitted under oath by one team’s trainer. The complaint further alleges that at times, players weren’t told the drug they were issued.
Anti-inflammatory and Pain Killing Drugs
The two most common medications issued by NFL team physicians seem to be Toradol and pain killers, including opiate drugs and Vicodin. Toradol is a powerful NSAID used to combat inflammation. However, the manufacturer recommends it to be used sparingly. Short term side effects include ulceration and other internal bleeding. Long term effects can include myocardial.
Vicodin is known as a rather powerful and addictive pain killer. The addictive traits of opiate painkillers have been known for decades. Both carry long term side effects.
Much of the information was made public by a Washington Post article taken from pleadings filed in the case. Though the pleadings were under a non-publicity order and much information was supposed to have been redacted, the Post obtained non-redacted versions of the pleadings through a technical glitch.
The present case was filed in 2015 and a motion to dismiss was denied in June 2016. A similar lawsuit was dismissed by the same judge, William Alsup, in December 2014. In that case, the court felt the players’ remedy was through the collective bargaining agreement. However, in the present case, the judge denied a motion to dismiss and allowed the case to proceed at present.
It is currently in the discovery phase of the lawsuit. In this phase, each side requests documents from the other and are allowed to depose potential witnesses. A number of team physicians and trainers have already been deposed. The NFL claims the lawsuit is without merit. An October trial date is presently scheduled. There will most likely be further motions to dismiss when discovery is complete, but prior to trial.