Lawsuits Proving Effective in Combating Opioid Crisis

Written by Chloe Nicosia

The opioid crisis in America doesn’t seem to be slowing down, but lawsuits may prove promising in the effort to stem the crisis in the long run.

Nearly 91 people die every day in the U.S. from an opioid overdose, according to opioid crisis statistics by the Centers for Disease Control. The opioid crisis is a devastating problem, and it’s made worse by years of deceptive practices by Big Pharma that have promoted the widespread use of opioid prescription painkillers. These include violating consumer protection statutes and deceiving medical professionals about how addictive opioids are. In some cases, drug companies may have committed Medicaid fraud by forcing taxpayers to cover the cost of unnecessary prescriptions. 

It’s not easy in the current political climate to hold these enormous and powerful companies responsible for their part in the opioid crisis. But some experts believe that lawsuits may be an important part of the solution for changing a number of questionable drug company practices and stemming the tide of the opioid crisis in America.

Lawsuits by the Truckload

Since Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood filed the first lawsuit against a prescription opioid drugmaker in 2015, more than 100 state, city, and county governments have filed similar lawsuits. The idea is to hold drug companies accountable for at least some of the strain on public services that the opioid crisis has caused. According to opioid crisis statistics, this strain includes depleting county and municipal budgets for law enforcement, first responders, drug treatment, autopsies on overdose victims, and a variety of other services.

In December this year alone, two counties in Iowa filed suit against five opioid manufacturers for aggressive marketing, failing to report or investigate suspicious orders of opioids, and downplaying the risk of opioid painkillers. Cook County joined five other Chicago-area counties in a similar lawsuit alleging “unlawful marketing,” among other claims. Greenfield, Massachusetts filed a lawsuit against several manufacturers claiming they were negligent for not controlling the overuse and abuse of their products. These are just a few of the most recent lawsuits, and many more are expected to roll in over the coming weeks and months.

In addition to these lawsuits, a coalition of 41 states recently banded together to subpoena information from four major drug manufacturers to determine whether they knowingly contributed to the rampant use of prescription opioids that are driving the opioid crisis in America. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, around 75 percent of people who end up in treatment for a heroin addiction first started taking opioids legally in the form of a prescription painkiller.

The End Game: A Page Out of the Big Tobacco Playbook

In the 1990s, more than 40 states sued numerous tobacco companies with the intention of making them pay for the health crisis caused by cigarette smoking. When all was said and done, Big Tobacco ended up paying more than $200 billion for their role in producing an addictive substance that led to countless smoking-related health problems and huge numbers of deaths.

In addition to the financial toll the lawsuits took on tobacco companies, they also led to some serious policy changes. Most forms of outdoor advertising for tobacco were banned, and companies were forced to stop marketing to teenagers. They were also required to fund anti-smoking ads that still get heavy airplay.

Although the largest payout from a drug manufacturer lawsuit so far is a $600 million settlement between the federal government and Purdue Pharma in 2007, many organizations, governments, and agencies are optimistic that eventually, Big Pharma will be forced to help pay for the damage done by the opioid crisis. They hope that policies and laws will be put into place to make meaningful changes to the way pharmaceutical companies market to doctors, advertise to consumers, and make their drugs available to the public. Until this happens, rampant opioid manufacturing, prescribing, and abuse is expected to continue.

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, get help right away. Make a phone call that will connect you to a professional drug treatment center. The call you make may save your life or the life of someone you love. Call us today at 1.800.429.7690.