It appears that most states have pretty much had it with the Opioid Industry. California just hit a record amount of lawsuits with over 30 counties joining in to press charges against Big Pharma and their dirty doings.
To many, the culprit has been clear for a long time, however, it seems that as of late, state legislation is finally getting around to doing something about it. The 30 counties that have rallied together have named their alliance the California Opioid Consortium, and they mean business.
“I think this is one of the only ways that there will be a solution. You have to hit these companies where it hurts the most for them, which is in their pocketbook,” attorney John Fink stated. Fink will be representing the counties who will each be filing separate lawsuits.
The Ease of Addiction
It’s no secret that the opioid epidemic has been ravaging the entire nation for the better part of a decade, and up until now, Big Pharmaceutical companies have taken only small amounts of blame. For the most part, they are standing firm in their claims that many of their medications are not addictive, and they should only be taken as directed.
Well, this is all well and good, and yes most people know better, however, when someone is handed a bottle of Opioids for a wisdom tooth removal, or for a sprained ankle, they probably never think that they will get hooked as fast as they do.
According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, it is estimated that of the 20.5 million Americans 12 or older who struggle with a substance use disorder, 2 million of those Americans struggled with opioid pain relievers.
Doctors and Big Pharma
Unfortunately, Big Pharma isn’t alone in their negligent behavior with these drugs. Some Doctors and Prescribers have started to go under the microscope for unsafe prescribing practices and taking bribes from the pharmaceutical industry.
This is a multi-billion dollar industry, and lots of people are cashing in on it. One way that the Government has tried to get over prescribing and even doctor shopping under control is by enhancing and paying very close attention to the Prescription Drug Database. This is a system where people’s prescriptions are put into a system by every doctor they see. This allows for other doctors to see what the person has been prescribed and by whom. While it does seem like a slight invasion of privacy, it has been effective is pointing out several practitioners who were prescribing patients with dangerously high amounts of painkillers, benzodiazepines, and antidepressants.
California is definitely not the first state to attempt to bring Big Pharma to court, but more so one more added to the lengthy list. For example, West Virginia, Florida, Ohio, New York, and Kentucky have also filed lawsuits against several opioid companies for the same reasons, primarily, for pushing large amounts of addictive drugs into the states and using bribery to swindle prescribers into peddling them.
In California alone in the year 2015, doctors wrote more than 24 million opioid prescriptions in the state. Sacramento County ranked in as the highest with 1.2 million opioid prescriptions for the year.
In 2016, 4,654 Californians died from opioid overdoses.
The California lawsuit, for Yuba County, in particular, is 300 pages long and the main goal is to, “eliminate the hazard to public health and safety caused by the opioid epidemic.” The suit states that these companies have created a public nuisance.
“Manufacturers aggressively push highly addictive, dangerous opioids, falsely representing to doctors that patients would only rarely succumb to drug addiction,” states the suit.
Overall, the counties are making an effort to try and recover some of their losses that have been a result of the opioid epidemic. “It affects all levels of public safety; the medical side, law enforcement, the district attorney’s office, the jails. They all got impacted in some way and the cost is passed on the counties and pretty much to the taxpayers” states Yuba County spokesperson and legislative affairs coordinator Russ Brown.
The lawsuits are going to be transferred into the multi-litigation district in Ohio, as many of these big cases do. However, one judge will be overseeing on all of the 500 plus lawsuits nationwide.
According to Brown, these lawsuits are most likely going to be just the first step in a long line of work and effort to uphold a healthy framework for big pharma moving forward.
“So, if we can affect the bottom line, they will change the way that they do business – which will change the communities for the better,” hopes Fiske.
While the states and the nation get ready to embark on a series of trials focused on recovering lost funding from the opioid epidemic, there hasn’t been many headlines around families who have lost loved ones from prescription opioids.
It is extremely common that many people who become addicted to painkillers eventually resort to heroin, and with the dangers of the deadly drug Fentanyl being found throughout everything from Heroin to Cocaine to Marijuana, it seems the families of these people are the only ones going unspoken for.
If these lawsuits are successful and if these counties get reimbursed for their financial losses, what happens to the family members, and even the taxpayers, who have been putting up the bill? What exactly will that money be going towards, and if it is substantial, will taxpayers see a break?
While a lot of this remains unclear, one thing is for sure, and it is that Americans are getting sick and tired of the opioid industry.