In an effort to cover the losses from the combating the opioid crisis, New York City has taken initiative to file a $500 lawsuit against Big Pharma and prescription opioid manufacturers.
At this point, it is pretty obvious that addicts, parents, and moral groundings aren’t to blame, as Big Pharma keeps pumping out prescription opioids and benzodiazepines to the masses, despite the overwhelming number of overdose deaths.
The Record So Far
New York City has continued to experience record numbers of overdose deaths every year. While it is both a major port city and the home to many Big Pharma corporations, it has been experiencing an opioid death toll that has not only increased but has nearly doubled over the last few years.
- In 2016, NYC recorded over 1,000 opioid overdose deaths
- More New Yorkers have died from opioid overdose than car crashes and homicides combined
- The rate of opioid overdose death has exponentially increased every year for the last six years
- Heroin is no longer the #1 offender, as Fentanyl has been found in cocaine, benzodiazepines, and oral analgesics
- Between the months of January and March 2017, 344 overdose deaths occurred throughout New York City
- More residents died in the Bronx from overdose deaths than any other borough.
- 85% involved opioids, and 76% involved fentanyl alone.
The Role of Big Pharma
“Big Pharma helped to fuel this epidemic by deceptively peddling these dangerous drugs and hooking millions of Americans in exchange for profit” states Mayor Bill de Blasio.
There is no question that millions of Americans lives are improved daily by some of the prescription medications that are out on the market. However, probably just as many, if not more, find themselves dependant on or addicted to their own prescribed and non prescribed medication.
The main issue here is that these pills are readily available, but they are decently expensive. Because of this, many people who are started out on prescription opioids such as oxycodone or Vicodin, eventually turn to heroin. It is much cheaper, much more potent, but has the ability to be cut with any number of deadly ingredients. However, once the person has become addicted, the threat of overdose doesn’t weigh as heavily as the withdrawal process they are experiencing.
However, according to Big Pharma companies like Purdue, who created oxycontin, they don’t see what they are doing as a problem.
“We are deeply troubled by the prescription and illicit opioid abuse crisis and are dedicated to being part of the solution. We vigorously deny these allegations and look forward to the opportunity to present our defense” states Purdue spokesperson, John Puskar.
Not only Purdue, but over a dozen other drug manufacturers and distribution companies have been named in the multi-million lawsuit.
Other Communities Following Suit
New York City is by far not the first community to file a lawsuit against Big Pharma with the allegations of their dirty business tactics despite the death toll. More than 200 other lawsuits against drug companies and big Pharma have been filed over the last few years.
These communities are among some of the hardest hit areas in the country.
- Three Pharmaceutical companies had distributed over 423 million pills in the state of West Virginia in a five-year span alone.
- One community organizer to get involved in a part of a pending lawsuit that was charged against these three major companies (Purdue, TEVA, and Cardinal Health)
- Pharmaceutical companies are actually suing the state of California after they tried to enforce legislation that would require Big Pharma to give two months notice before they planned to raise drug prices.
- Big Pharma is apparently retorting that being required to give notice of their price increases is a violation of the first amendment and that it violates their freedom of speech.
- In 2013, there were 793 million doses of opioids prescribed in the state (the population was 11.5 million) – the state has filed lawsuits against TEVA, Purdue, and Johnson and Johnson.
- In April of 2017, 54,000 residents of Ohio were receiving Medication Assisted Treatment (suboxone, methadone, naltrexone) and the numbers continue to rise)
- In Floyd County Kentucky, there are 38,000 residents. However, between 2010 and 2016, one pharmaceutical company shipped 18 million opioid pills to the one county alone.
- Attorney General Andy Beshear sued the company responsible, McKesson, for misleading business practices.
- In one year, 1,400 residents of Kentucky died from an opioid overdose, which was a 39% increase since the year before.
Surrounded by Red Tape
So far, all of the communities that have filed lawsuits against Big Pharma have been hitting roadblocks left and right. According to
One hopeful method that has been used so far, is a “public nuisance” violation. In Ohio, this allegation refers to any medical professional or company who uses unsafe or harmful prescribing practices and threatens the lives of Ohio citizens.
Other states have been trying to tackle these lawsuits in the same vein as the big tobacco payout in the late 90’s. However, pharmaceutical companies infiltrate just about every area of the government, even having involvement in the agriculture and food administrations.
In an interview with legal firm Baum Hedlund, the major legal enemy of big pharma, the question was posed, “Does the court system protect the Pharmaceutical Industry from litigation?”
Mr. Baum responded, “Yes, the court system has made it very expensive for claims to be made against pharmaceutical companies for injuries… the experts charge high hourly rates to offset the “cost” of going up against the same entities that pay for grants, lucrative industry jobs, and coveted academic positions. Furthermore, many judges now have gatekeeping authority to reject cutting-edge science that goes against the status-quo…. Drug companies are able to foster “established beliefs… once those marketed messages become pervasive, use of the drug becomes the standard of care.”