Lawsuits Against the Opioid Industry

Lawsuits Against the Opioid Industry

Selling More Drugs to Maximize Profits

America’s opioid epidemic and crisis is directly linked to pharmaceutical companies and distributers downplaying the addictive nature of powerful painkillers in order to lobby physicians and healthcare professionals into prescribing at much higher rates than necessary.   In doing so, these opioid companies were able to increase their profits along with addiction and overdose deaths. The first wave of the opioid crisis from the late 1990s is considered to be the starting point, as that is where the initial marketing and false advertising started.  Tens of millions of dollars were spent by pharmaceutical companies in these marketing schemes; distributing patient education guides, and providing educational and training videos to doctors, to convince the public these products were not only safe, effective, and not addictive, but that they were also under prescribed and should be prescribed more, even in children.

Purdue Pharma is one of many pharmaceutical companies involved with the current lawsuits. The OxyContin maker trained sales staff to influence prescribing habits and convince physicians and patients to focus on pain management and that there was no real danger of becoming addicted to these painkillers because they were being used to treat pain, and were not used for illicit purposes. In 1996, when OxyContin was introduced, sales reached $49.9 million. By 1997, after Purdue Pharma began marketing efforts to the medical community, sales reached $146.5 million.

Internal memos and leaked documents from Purdue Pharma show that executives from the company were fully aware of the highly addictive nature of opioids and pushed their sales staff to target vulnerable people, such as senior citizens and veterans. Purdue Pharma even proposed an addiction treatment plan for those addicted to their products – a ploy to “solve” the problem that they started by funneling addicts into their own program. The more people were given OxyContin, the more people would become addicted, and the more they would need the addiction program.

The lawsuits filed today against pharmaceutical companies, retail pharmacies and dispensaries are to hold them responsible for fueling a crisis for the sake of making a profit. Claims against distributors (pharmacies such as CVS, Walgreens, and Wal-Mart) allege that they failed to recognize that opioids were being prescribed for the same patients for long periods of time, long after the paid should have subsided. Suits are being filed by cities, counties, and state attorney generals more often than suits filed by victims and families of the crisis. The epidemic has cost states millions of dollars in expanding childcare services and Medicaid programs, increasing law enforcement, and increasing physical and mental health treatment. In some states, property value has decreased in areas where the epidemic hit the hardest.

 

The Opioid Crisis Lawsuit in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania saw nearly 5,000 opioid overdose deaths in 2016, which continued to climb into 2017. Allegheny County alone saw 740 deaths in 2017– a figure that doubled since 2014. On average, 15 Pennsylvanians died per day from an opioid overdose in 2017, and 12 per day died in 2018. Pennsylvania was one of 41 states to investigate the opioid crisis in 2017 and since then, claims have not only been filed on the state level, but also have extended to counties and local municipalities. In early 2019, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro sued Purdue Pharma, claiming the crisis has cost the state $142 billion.

Goldberg, Persky & White, P.C., is co-counsel in the lawsuit against eight pharmaceutical companies whose tactics and unlawful practices could have contributed to the opioid crisis that is gripping the nation in what could be the “largest civil litigation settlement agreement in history.”

GPW seeks compensatory and punitive damages from the following pharmaceutical companies that make or distribute opioids:

 

  • Purdue Pharma LP
  • Teva Pharmaceuticals USA Inc.
  • Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc.
  • Endo Health Solutions Inc.
  • Mallinckrodt, plc; Cardinal Health Inc.
  • McKesson Corporation
  • AmerisourceBergen Drug Corp.

 

Opioid deaths in Allegheny County declined nearly 36 percent from 2017 to 2018; however, opioid abuse has not declined. Experts believe that the efforts to widely distribute naloxone or Narcan, the drug that instantly reverses the effects of an overdose when administered quickly, is one of the main factors why overdose deaths have dropped 3.1 percent nationally between 2017 and 2018.

 

Sources:
U.S Department of Health & Human Sources, “HHS Acting Secretary Declares Public Health Emergency to Address National Opioid Crisis” (October 26, 2017). [Link]
German Lopez, “The Growing Number of Lawsuits Against Opioid Companies, Explained” Vox News (May 15 2018). [Link]
Laura Ly, “Pennsylvania Attorney General Sues Purdue Pharma Over Opioid Epidemic,” CNN (May 14, 2019). [Link]
Nicole Fisher, “Opioid Lawsuits on Par to Become Largest Civil Litigation Agreement in U.S. History” Forbes (October 18, 2018). [Link]
Brian Mann, “Opioid Litigation Brings Company Secrets Into The Public Eye,” NPR (March 13, 2019). [Link]
Sarah Boden, “Opioid Deaths in Allegheny County Declined Last Year, Though Public Officials Can’t Say Why,” 90.5 WESA (March 7, 2019). [Link]

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