With some states and areas across the country on the receiving end of opioid painkiller prescription shipments that outnumber the people housed therein, state officials are beginning to address the link between the opioid crisis, Big Pharma, and the heavy burden weighing on their municipalities. In an attempt to hold Big Pharma accountable, they’re taking a page out of past lawsuits against tobacco companies – and suing them.
Until now, these multibillion dollar companies have been sidelined in the fight against the opioid epidemic. Now they’re being looked at as star players by city, county, state, and federal officials – even the DEA has taken notice, responding in-kind. This year, in a push to hold opioid manufacturers and distributors responsible, multiple lawsuits have been launched…
States Join Forces in the Fight Against Opioids
Taking the lives of 40 Americans each day, the total economic burden of prescription opioid overdose is costing the country $78.5 billion per year – and these states are taking action…
Most recently, Missouri’s filed suit against 3 opioid manufacturers, alleging a deliberate campaign of fraud to convince doctors and the public against the highly-addictive, life-threatening potential of the drugs.
Suing Purdue Pharma and 7 others, Mississippi lawsuits are borrowing tactics used in their successful fight against tobacco companies in 1998, alleging companies misrepresented the dangers of opioids to doctors and patients, marketing the drug as rarely addictive, and a safe substitute for non-addictive pain medications like ibuprofen or naproxen. But pharmacy companies don’t want the suit to go through – not until FDA-ordered studies on long-term risks/benefits are completed, which could take several years.
Ohio filed suit against multiple manufacturers for false advertising, Medicare fraud, and violation of the Ohio Corrupt Practices Act, claiming the companies knew (or should have known) their drugs weren’t safe or effective.
Illinois is taking part in multi-state investigations into manufacturers, with 2 lawsuits in-play. One against Insys, for the deceptive marketing of highly-addictive Subsys for the off-label treatment of back and neck pain in efforts to gain huge profits. Another, an anti-trust suit against the makers of Suboxone, used to treat opioid addiction, alleging a scheme to block generics to artificially inflate prices.
- East Tennessee
Prosecutors representing 9 counties are taking aim at Big Pharma using the Tennessee Drug Dealer Liability Act, or ‘crack tax’ law. Designed to hold dealers criminally and financially responsible for the effects of the drugs they distribute, the suit labels drug makers as dealers, further accusing them of lying about the addictive properties of opioids, aggressively pushing them as miracle cures for all types of pain. The state AG is investigating its options in pursuing its own legal action.
- New York
8 NY counties have joined in seeking compensation for expenses caused by the state’s growing drug problem, alleging marketing omitted critical information about the addictive nature of the drugs and risks associated with long-term use.
- Everett, Washington
They city of Everett filed suit against Purdue Pharma, makers of OxyContin, alleging the company was intimately aware its drug was being funneled into the black market, yet did nothing.
Distributors Sinking, Similar Challenges Against Manufacturers Possible
CVS, Walgreens, Walmart, McKesson, Cardinal Health, KeySource, Sunrise Wholesale and more are facing charges and paying fines – sometimes multiple times. Some suits have settled. Others have resulted in criminal convictions. Could Big Pharma be next? Though manufacturers vigorously reject the argument they’ve fueled the current opioid crisis, it’s hard to ignore the overdose deaths – more than 300,000 since 1999. But opioids (opium, morphine, heroin) have been around, literally, for centuries, and their highly-addictive properties well-known.
More Lawsuits On the Way
Lawyers currently working these cases note a growing number of jurisdictions showing interest. States are joining forces in the current investigation, with dozens more lawsuits expected. The ultimate hope? That if enough attorneys general are able to join forces in bringing suits, they can accomplish what the federal government has been unable to… And snowball the lawsuits into a massive settlement that might finally put an end to practices that have fueled the deadliest drug overdose crisis in U.S. history.
About the Author: Anthony Sambucini is a founding principal and the Chief Executive Officer of ANS Solutions. Anthony specializes in bridging the goals of clinical innovation and business strategy that have helped propel ANS Solutions into a national leader in Pharmacotherapy Review Services for workers’ compensation insurers and ANS Pharmacotherapy Review Program is the most advanced, results-oriented drug utilization review program in the industry. As a consultant to insurance carriers and attorneys, Anthony customizes services based on the particular needs of the client and oversees all activities related to business development and company operations. For more information about ANS Solutions visit http://ans-solutions.com/.
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