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Opioid Makers Face Wave of Lawsuits in 2019: NPR



 Oxycodone pain pills prescribed for a patient with chronic pain.

The next twelve months might just be redefine the way America thinks about and responds to the opioid epidemic that now claims more than 40,000 lives each year.

Thousands of state and local governments, including cities and tribal governments, are demanding that companies like Perdue Pharma, Wal-Mart. Mart, and Rite-Aid, compensate them for the costs of responding to the crisis.

"Our next battle is to get the documents that are made available to the public instead of everything being." filed under confidentiality agreements. "

How We Got Here

Some of that internal information could be explosive, changing the way America views the opioid crisis. We already know that in the 1

990s there is growing pressure in the healthcare industry to treat more aggressively. Purdue Pharma created a game-changing long-acting opioid called Oxycontin.

"In fact, the rate of addiction among pain patients who are treated by doctors is much less than one percent," claimed one of the company's advertisements at the time, aimed at convincing skeptical physicians.

In their lawsuits, local and state claims claim that there are dozens of companies, including drug makers, suppliers, and pharmacies made of billions of dollars flooding the U.S. with a variety of prescription pain pills.

One of the arguments being made is that of pharmacies and drug distributors, including Walgreens, Wal-Mart. Mart and CVS said they were "selling too many pills, helping to create dangerous levels of addiction and a new black market."

We now know that the public health risk is severe.

Since 1999, millions of Americans have abused prescription opioids. The federal government reports more than 130 people now receiving each day of opioid overdoses.

The growing number of people who became addicted also overwhelmed many government agencies, from law enforcement to drug rehab clinics to foster care programs.

"We are still in the throes of a public health crisis in summit." County, "said Greta Johnson, a county official helping to coordinate the response in Akron, Ohio. financially responsible for programs designed to ease the suffering in communities like hers.

Paying the price for recovery

Public officials hope for an outcome similar to the massive tobacco settlement of the 1990s. Cigarette makers have paid out more than $ 100 billion.

Local and state officials say they desperately need that kind of cash settlement to solve this crisis. A lot of the worst opioid abuse is happening in poor, cash-strapped communities.

Many claims to be tossed

NPR talked to Experts who predicted that many of the specific claims in these lawsuits will eventually be tossed out for technical legal reasons. The industry has also argued that the epidemic was caused by numerous factors , including the actions of government regulators and policymakers, suggesting that firms should not be held liable for misuse.

"Earlier this year we ended our practice of promoting opioid medications to sales representatives," Purdue Pharmaceuticals announced on its website in 2018.

But the lawsuit has been published since 1966.

"The judge has made it clear that he wants to be in a position to be in a position to do so." of the tobacco settlement, said Richard Ausness, a law professor at the University of Kentucky who follows these cases closely.

He's referring to Judge Dan Polster, whose federal court in Ohio is one of the largest test cases, which includes hundreds of consolidated lawsuits. Last month, Judge Polster referred to the opioid crisis as a "man made plague," but so far no national settlement has materialized.

The stage for big court fights around the country over the next year .


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