Opioid Crisis – Who’s Accountable?
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. These powerful drugs bind to opioid receptors in the body and reduce pain messages sent to the brain, offering patients relief from discomfort 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 “high.” This leads many people to continue using opioids, or start using them, for non-medical purposes. Every day, more than 130 people in the United States die from overdosing on opioids.
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. Thus, doctors began freely prescribing drugs like Vicodin®, Percocet® and OxyContin® to relieve their patients’ pain. Of course, it was later discovered that opioids can be, in fact, incredibly addictive. Since then, 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.
Oklahoma Opioid Trial
Nearly two years ago, Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter sued pharmaceutical companies including Teva, Purdue Pharma, and Johnson & Johnson, claiming that their 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. Johnson & Johnson refused to back down, becoming the first pharmaceutical company to go to trial for opioids in the United States. The opioid trial began in May 2019 and could take up to two months to reach a verdict.
At Harlan Law, we’ve been watching the Oklahoma Opioid Trial closely. The outcome could serve as guidance for thousands of similar cases brought against drug companies, including consumer claims for pharmaceutical injury, and determine to what degree a company can be held liable for a drug epidemic.
Who should be held accountable?
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. In the opioid trial, Oklahoma state officials are accusing Johnson & Johnson of misleading both doctors and patients about the dangers of prescription painkillers. Rather than sue Johnson & Johnson for fraud or product liability, the state is claiming that the drug company infringed Oklahoma’s law governing public nuisances by flooding the state with opioid painkillers. This is the first time this legal theory has been tested in a pharmaceutical context. Whatever the verdict, it is likely to be appealed at the state Supreme Court.
I have suffered a pharmaceutical injury. Should I hire a lawyer?
As consumers, we assume the medications we are prescribed are safe. Even if a drug claims to be tested and approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the FDA has been known to inadequately test medications and release unsafe products to the mainstream. Additionally, prescription drug labels can be misleading, which can also cause a pharmaceutical injury or death. If you or someone you love has suffered harm due to misuse of prescription painkillers or has died as a result of opioid overdose, it’s important to speak to a lawyer as soon as possible.
At Harlan Law, our attorneys have decades of experience helping individuals who have suffered health consequences due to mislabeled drugs, adverse side effects, and improper prescriptions. From the company that manufactured the medication, to the doctor who prescribed it, to the pharmacist who provided instructions on how to take it, it can be challenging to determine who is responsible in a pharmaceutical injury case. That’s why working with a California pharmaceutical injury attorney is so valuable. We’ll handle every aspect of your legal case so you can focus on recovery.
Call us today for a free, no-obligation consultation at 619-870-0802.