2018 was the year of opioid lawsuits and all indications are that 2019 will be more of the same. Six more state governments have recently filed suit against Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of OxyContin and other painkillers, charging the Connecticut-based pharmaceutical giant of deceptive marketing practices that served to get people hooked on their drugs.
The top opioid lawsuits of 2018
This most recent batch of lawsuits—including big states like Texas and Florida—mean there are now 27 state Attorneys General lined up against Purdue. The federal government may not be far behind. Last fall, the White House reportedly encouraged the Justice Department to file its own separate lawsuit.
The charges leveled against Purdue and other pharmaceutical firms is that the addiction dangers of their opioids were drastically understated. The result was that opioids became the most prescribed medication in the United States. In 2012, there were 255 million prescriptions written for opioid painkillers.
The consequences of opioid prescriptions
When patients started to appear with addiction symptoms, doctors were allegedly told those symptoms actually indicated a need for more opioids rather than less. Doctors were further told there was no “ceiling,” that is, a dosage level patients should not exceed. The result was that by 2016 more than 46 people were dying every single day from opioid addiction.
As the consequences of addiction become more ingrained in American society, the governmental case for damages increases. Medicare and Medicaid dollars have been spent to treat the addiction. The budgets for law enforcement and social services has been strained, due to the consequences of addiction. All of this potentially puts Big Pharma on the hook when it comes to compensatory damages—to say nothing of any punitive damages that could be awarded.
All of that presumes, though, that the pharmaceutical companies are guilty as charged. Purdue has strongly denied the charges and vows to fight in court.
The opioid lawsuits trend isn’t slowing down. In fact, it may be just beginning, and legal experts are debating who can even be held responsible: pharmaceutical companies or doctors.