Following the Opioid Lawsuit
This crisis has resulted in untold damage to families and communities, both in the toll of lives taken as well as the economic burden associated with emergency room visits, lost work days, and money spent fighting drug-related crime.
Who are the Plaintiffs?
The plaintiffs are a coalition of city, state, county, and Native American governments across the nation. These lawsuits include families affected by opioid addiction and governments dealing with the economic burden of battling this crisis. The states included among these lawsuits are:
- New Hampshire
- New Mexico
- North Carolina
- West Virginia
Who are the Accused?
The accused parties include major manufacturers, distributors, pharmacies, and individual doctors. Some of the major names include:
- Purdue Pharma
- Abbott Laboratories
- Endo Pharmaceuticals
- Johnson & Johnson
- Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals
- Teva Pharmaceuticals
- Janssen Pharmaceuticals
- Barr Laboratories
- Actavis Pharma,
- Watson Laboratories,
- Insys Therapeutics
- AmerisourceBergen Drug Corp.
- Cardinal Health
- McKesson Corp
- Express Scripts
- CVS Health
- UnitedHealth Group
What are the Legal Arguments?
Two major arguments are being made in these cases, primarily against the manufacturers and distributors of prescription opioids.
This case is leveled at the distributor level and claims that distributors supplied these pills in excess of what should have reasonably been provided. This is backed by data showing that in some areas of the country more painkillers were prescribed than there were people. This violates laws that required distributors to monitor their drug supply chain. Lawyers have made the comparison to credit card companies flagging suspicious purchases. When a small town of 500 orders hundreds of thousands of painkillers, this should be a red flag, but distributors either wittingly or unwittingly failed to address cases like this.
What is the Goal?
The hope is that plaintiffs can reach some settlement similar to the Master Settlement Agreement reached against Big Tobacco in 1998. This agreement forced the largest tobacco companies to pay tens of billions in annual payments as well as significant changes to the sale and marketing of tobacco products. This type of payout could help restrict the flood of opioid drugs while providing money to help states pay for adequate treatment to treat addiction.
There are multiple barriers to the lawsuits reaching this kind of settlement. There are too many layers and culpable parties involved to place the blame on a single entity. There are the doctors who overprescribe these medications, the distributors who oversupplied the pills, state regulators who didn’t pass prescription drug monitoring laws, the Food and Drug Administration which approved opioid painkillers, and manufacturers themselves who downplayed the dangerous, addictive properties.
What Settlements Have Been Paid?
Several companies have reached settlements, but when looking at the greater picture of the economic burden, lives lost, and continued opioid prescription rates, there is still a ways to go before we have reached any kind of adequate reparations.
- Costco Wholesale - $11.75 million
- McKesson Corp. - $150 million
- Cardinal Health Inc. - $60 million
- Purdue Pharma - $24 million
- Insys Therapeutics - $150 million
Ultimately, the ongoing lawsuits show a growing commitment from lawmakers to combat an epidemic that has clearly devastated communities across the nation. Hopefully, a major settlement agreement comparable to that against Big Tobacco will be reached before the opioid problem grows too difficult to control.