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Opioid Makers Face Lawsuits in 2019

Posted in Dangerous Drugs on March 15, 2019

Scientists intended prescription pain medications containing opioids to help patients reduce pain levels after accidents, surgeries, and debilitating diseases. Opioids achieve this purpose, perhaps too well. Opioids are highly addictive, leading to what many experts refer to as the current opioid epidemic in the United States.

What Led to Opioid Problems?

Patients prescribed with opioids often experience quick pain relief, but once the pain is gone, the chemical dependence on opioids can remain. Continued use of opioid pain relievers, even with the approval of a doctor, can lead to severe dependency. Ceasing use of opioids can lead to withdrawal symptoms so strong, many users return to the drug to avoid them.

Over time, increased tolerance of opioids means an increased demand for the drug, and the increased possibility for overdose. Once the prescription runs out, some users turn to street drugs to avoid the high cost of prescription opioids. Others attempt to wean themselves off the drugs with rehabilitative drugs such as methadone but may find themselves addicted to these as well.

Many blame opioid manufacturers for influencing doctors to prescribe their drugs for profit. Others blame doctors for over-prescribing the drugs in cases where they may not be necessary. The fact remains, however, that opioids are a real problem in West Virginia, causing over 34 deaths for every 100,000 people – more than twice the national average.

New Opioid Lawsuits

Often, families of overdose victims wish to pursue damages from those they feel are liable for the death of their loved ones. The supposed responsible parties often include doctors, nursing home employees, rehab clinics and drug dealers. If the families are able to prove the defendants were negligent or criminally responsible for providing unsafe access to opioids, they may receive compensation on behalf of the deceased.

In 2019, however, government entities have begun to sue the corporations that manufacture and sell opioids. Cities, states, tribal governments, and even the Justice Department have supported and filed lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies and their executives, dispensaries, and retail pharmacies. Similar to the Big Tobacco lawsuits of the nineties, state governments claim the pharmaceutical industry actively downplayed the dangers of opioids, inflated their effectiveness, and influenced doctors to prescribe more.

Other lawsuits cite statistics from states like West Virginia, in which one county prescribed more bottles of opioids than there were residents. Clearly, retail pharmacies are not completely responsible for the presence of opioids. However, pharmacies have a responsibility to execute reasonable caution that they do not release excessive amounts of opioids to individuals who may abuse them.

What Are the Projected Outcomes

In the past, states did not have the resources or the evidence to prove such actions took place. However, Medicare and Medicaid records now accurately depict the amount of money paid out to pharmaceutical companies. In addition, records of pharmaceutical companies’ influence on those that prescribe opioids exist, making the 2019 cases much more solid than the case against Big Tobacco.

Lawsuits against many major pharmaceutical companies, such as Glaxo-Smith-Kline and Purdue Pharma, as well as their owners, are active in 2019. In addition, lawsuits against retailers like Walmart, CVS, Walgreens, and Rite Aid are in the works, making the compiled lawsuits part of one of the biggest class action-type lawsuits in history. The outcomes are still in question, but it is entirely possible that 2019 will be the year pharmaceutical companies begin to pay damages for the opioid epidemic.

In the meantime, more lawsuits begin every day in an effort to hold pharmaceutical companies accountable. Lawyers continue to encourage those who experienced the death of a loved one due to an opioid addiction to contact a law firm to discuss a case. Several states have compiled cases into class-action lawsuits to speed the process. If you experienced the loss of a loved one due to an opioid addiction, contact an attorney to determine your options.