Every day more than 130 people in the United States die from overdosing on opioids.

68% of the 70,200 drug overdose deaths in 2017 involved some kind of opioid.

The number of overdose deaths that involved opioids in 2017 was 6 times greater than in 1999.

No one starts taking prescription painkillers planning to become addicted to them. Usually, doctors prescribe opioids to treat moderate to severe pain that doesn’t respond well to other medications.

Opioids bind to opioid receptors in the body and reduce pain messages sent to the brain. These powerful drugs offer patients relief following an accident, injury, or surgery. While effective at reducing pain, opioids also contain chemicals that relax the body and cause a user to feel euphoric or “high.” This leads many people to continue using opioids or start using them for non-medical reasons – sometimes turning to increasingly dangerous or illicit sources of opioids.

If you or a loved one has suffered because of prescription opioids, you could have a legal remedy. Harlan Law protects patients’ rights. Call us at (619) 870-0802 today for a free consultation about your case.

Who Is Responsible for the Opioid Epidemic?

When we’re sick or injured, we trust pharmaceutical companies to have our best interests at heart.

Unfortunately, drug manufacturers often put financial gains above the safety of the people who rely on their products to feel better. 

For the first time, state officials are holding prescription drug manufacturers responsible for what has become a nationwide opioid crisis.

How Did the Opioid Crisis Begin?

In the late 1990s, pharmaceutical companies told the medical community that opioid pain relievers were non-addictive. Doctors began freely prescribing drugs like Vicodin®, Percocet®, and OxyContin® to relieve their patients’ pain.

Of course, it was later discovered that opioids can, in fact, be incredibly addictive.

Since the late 90s, opioid overdose rates have steadily increased. In 1999, just over 8,000 Americans died as a result of overdosing on opioids, including prescription painkillers, heroin, and fentanyl. In 2017, the death toll was more than 47,000.

Risk Factors for Opioid Overdose

Opioids slow breathing and interfere with the body’s regulation of oxygen and carbon dioxide. Opioid overdose can happen when taking too many opioids causes respiratory depression. The brain stem becomes unable to receive enough oxygen and death can occur.

Risk factors for opioid overdose include:

  • Being prescribed high doses of opioids
  • Taking fentanyl, a highly-concentrated synthetic opioid
  • Taking opioids over a long period of time
  • Combining opioids with benzodiazepines
  • Taking opioids for off-label purposes
  • Taking other opioids or heroin in addition to an opioid prescription

Unfortunately, much of America is no stranger to the devastation of opioid addiction and overdose. Recent lawsuits have targeted opioid manufacturers, distributors, and retailers for their responsibility in the opioid crisis.

Oklahoma Johnson & Johnson Opioid Trial

Nearly two years ago, Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter sued pharmaceutical companies including Teva, Purdue Pharma, and Johnson & Johnson. The lawsuit claimed that these companies’ aggressive marketing tactics and misleading medical claims contributed to the opioid problem in the United States.

Teva and Purdue Pharma settled with the state for $85 million and $270 million, respectively. But Johnson & Johnson refused to back down. As a result, Johnson & Johnson became the first pharmaceutical company to go to trial for opioids in the United States.

In the opioid trial, Oklahoma state officials accused Johnson & Johnson of misleading doctors and patients about the dangers of prescription painkillers. Instead of suing Johnson & Johnson for fraud or product liability, the state claimed that the drug company created a public nuisance by flooding the state with opioid painkillers. This was the first time this legal theory had been tested in a pharmaceutical context.

Johnson & Johnson Settlement

The Oklahoma opioid trial began in May 2019, with the state asking for $17 billion to repair the devastation done by the opioid crisis. In August the Oklahoma judge ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $572 million for deliberately downplaying the dangers of opioids and over-emphasizing the benefits.

Johnson & Johnson supplied 60% of the opiate ingredients used by drug companies to create opioids like oxycodone and hydrocodone. The court found that J&J created a “public nuisance” by making a public health crisis worse with false, deceptive, and misleading marketing.

Opioid Lawsuits Across the Country

This outcome could serve as guidance for thousands of similar cases brought against drug companies across the United States. These include consumer claims for pharmaceutical injury (personal injury).

In the August 2019 ruling, the Oklahoma judge wrote that Johnson & Johnson had put out “false, misleading, and dangerous campaigns” that “caused exponentially increasing rates of addiction, overdose,” and babies born with opioid exposure.

More than 2,000 cities, counties and other government jurisdictions have cases open in court. J&J is likely to appeal this case to the state Supreme Court but the ruling is a positive sign for patients’ rights.

Should I Hire a Lawyer for My Opioid Case?

As consumers, we assume the medications we are prescribed are safe. But even if a drug claims to be tested and approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the FDA can fail to properly test medications. Unsafe products have managed to be released into the mainstream.

Additionally, prescription drug labels can be misleading, which can also cause a pharmaceutical injury or death.

It’s best for you to contact a local pharmaceutical injury lawyer near you if you or a loved one was prescribed opioid-based painkillers such as hydrocodone, codeine, oxycontin, and as a result:

  • Struggled with addiction to opioids
  • Passed away due to opioid overdose

You could be able to recover the following types of damages:

  • Medical expenses and drug treatment costs
  • Funeral expenses and burial costs
  • Lost wages and other damages
  • Pain and suffering

Pharmaceutical Injury Lawsuits

Harlan Law attorneys have decades of experience fighting for patients’ rights. We help those who have suffered health consequences due to mislabeled drugs, adverse side effects, and improper prescriptions.

It can be challenging to determine who is responsible in a pharmaceutical injury case. These cases can be complex with multiple responsible parties, including:

  • The company that manufactured the medication
  • The doctor who prescribed it
  • The pharmacist who provided instructions on how to take it

That’s why working with an experienced California pharmaceutical injury attorney is so valuable. We’ll handle every aspect of your legal case so you can focus on recovery.

Call our lawyers today for a free, no-obligation consultation at (619) 870-0802.

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