Does the avalanche of lawsuits filed around the country – as well as the multi-state probe launched by over 40 State Attorneys General – mean that Big Pharma will eventually be held accountable for its role in the devastating opioid epidemic?
If the past judgments against Big Tobacco are any indicator, the answer is an optimistic, “YES!” If these lawsuits are successful, the settlement could be in the hundreds of millions – or even billions – of dollars. And a large portion of this money could be used to fund prevention campaigns and treatment programs for the millions of Americans who desperately need substance abuse treatment.
The Role of Big Pharma
Right now, there are dozens of lawsuits that have been filed by states, counties, and even individual cities, charging that large drug companies intentionally misled prescribers and the public about the dangers of prescription opioid painkillers, and then followed up that misinformation with overly-aggressive marketing campaigns to physician prescribers. Among the stated grievances are:
- Minimizing the medications’ potential for abuse and addiction.
- Overstating the medications’ effectiveness.
- Unethically providing incentives to doctors who prescribe opioid medications.
- Punishing doctors who did not meet expected prescribing orders.
- Urging providers to treat pain as a “vital sign”
Who Are the Plaintiffs?
Virtually any community in America that has been impacted by the constantly-worsening opioid epidemic has a legitimate grievance with opioid manufacturers and distributors – from small towns in Connecticut to large counties in California to entire states to even the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma.
So far here in California, only Orange and Santa Clara counties have filed suit, but that number is expected to increase substantially. A coalition of 41 Attorney Generals has also been formed to more deeply explore the possibility of unethical business practices by pharmaceutical companies.
Who Are the Defendants?
A number of big drug companies and distributors have already been named, including:
- Johnson & Johnson
- Janssen Pharmaceuticals
- Cardinal Health
- Amerisource Bergen
What Does All This Mean?
This does NOT mean that there is going to be a huge pool of money available for every individual who has ever struggled with opioid addiction. These are lawsuits filed by city, county, and state governments as they both try to protect their citizenry and recoup financial losses they may have incurred through such addiction-related expenses as:
- Emergency Services
- Law Enforcement
- Medical Treatment
- Overdose Reversal Medications
- Court Costs
- Government-Funded Drug Rehab
At any rate, there is a long legal fight ahead, and any potential judgments or settlements are likely months or years away.
But all of this DOES highlight how dangerous prescription opioids truly are and how widespread and endemic the problem truly is.
In other words, if you are struggling with an addiction to prescription painkillers or heroin, the time to get help is NOW.
If you live in Southern California, Lasting Recovery outpatient drug rehab can help.