Hospitals Join Movement to Demand Pharmaceutical Company Responsibility

Pharmaceutical company products.

In state after state, Attorneys General have been filing lawsuits directed at pharmaceutical corporations they claim are responsible for our current epidemic of opioid abuse and addiction. Now, two Alabama hospitals and one in Mississippi have joined the effort to force responsibility in on these companies. The three plaintiffs are Alabama’s Infirmary Health Hospitals in Mobile and the Monroe County Healthcare Authority in Monroeville, and Southwest Mississippi Regional Medical Center in Mississippi.

And who are the defendants? Largely the same defendants that have been sued by multiple states, counties, and cities. The list of companies and their most notable painkiller products includes:

The new lawsuits claim that these companies are responsible for the expenses hospitals have suffered from having to treat those who became addicted to opioids resulting from fraudulent marketing by these companies. The suit states that the companies ”pushed highly addictive, dangerous opioids, falsely representing to doctors that patients would only rarely succumb to drug addiction.”

Responses from Teva Pharmaceutical Industries and Purdue Pharma refuted the claims of the lawsuit. Which is curious because, in 2007, three current and former Purdue executives pleaded guilty to charges that they falsely claimed their flagship product OxyContin was less addictive and less liable to be abused than other opioid painkillers when they knew otherwise. The fines paid by the executives and the company totaled $634.5 million.

It’s hard to see how these pharmaceutical companies have any grounds to refute these claims of false marketing tactics. After all, their wrongdoing has been thoroughly and repeatedly exposed by investigative reporting by publications like the Los Angeles Times and The New Yorker.

And in 2017, Teva settled a lawsuit filed by Orange and Santa Clara Counties that alleged that the company fraudulently marketed their products by inflating their benefits and downplaying the risks. The settlement sum was $1.6 million.

The indefensibility of pharmaceutical company claims became even more obvious when, in 2017, the Los Angeles Times reported that Purdue’s 2010 attempt to make OxyContin harder for addicts to abuse contributed heavily to the increase in the number of people seeking heroin as an alternative. They readily turned to heroin since it has essentially the same effects as OxyContin and was also easier to obtain. Thus the efforts of pharmaceutical companies to inflate profits started with false marketing messages continued with overprescribing of addictive drugs and then developed into increased heroin trafficking and use and the increased overdose deaths you could expect from that transition. Add to this mix Asian supplies of fentanyl and you have a national catastrophe.

Drug Cartels Change Crops to Adapt to These Changes

Opium poppies being harvested.
Opium gum being harvested. Photo by Couperfield/Shutterstock.

Drug traffickers are not, unfortunately, dummies. Some of them are smart businessmen. By 2015, multiple news services were reporting that Mexican drug cartels were planting opium poppies to keep U.S. appetites for heroin satisfied—appetites that may have only developed once 1.8 million people were addicted to painkillers, per the most recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

So who else has seen the writing on the wall and filed lawsuits against these or other pharmaceutical manufacturers, marketers or distributors?

  • Bernalillo County, New Mexico
  • The Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma
  • The State of Oklahoma
  • Three counties in Tennessee
  • The City of Chicago
  • The State of Ohio
  • The State of Missouri

In July 2017, the Washington Post reported that 25 cities, counties and state had filed lawsuits against these and other companies. More states are requesting proposals from law firms.

What Good Could Come from Lawsuits like These?

Let’s imagine for a moment that these lawsuits begin to be won or the companies offer cash settlements. What good could come of this?

Purdue Pharma and its executives already paid fines of more than $600 million. It’s not hard to imagine settlements from these new lawsuits reaching into the billions. What could that money be used for?

Rehabilitation and prevention. How much progress would be made in alleviating the burden of addiction in this country with a few billion dollars? How many rehab centers could be built? How many well-designed public service announcements could be run? How many drug prevention specialists could be sent to American schools to spread the message that the person who uses drugs could be risking his own life?

As long as pharmaceutical corporation settlement or lawsuit judgment monies were directed toward solving the problem, we could see a significant change in this country. The massive number of heartbreaks resulting from the loss of loved ones could be reduced.

Each one of us can take action against opioid addiction by setting a good example of sobriety ourselves and helping those who are addicted find effective rehabilitation. Educating young people thoroughly on the risks of drug abuse also helps prevent more them from getting started on this road.

If you need help for someone you love, call us. For the last 50 years, tens of thousands of individuals who needed help returning to sobriety have chosen us.

You can read other Narconon coverage of this situation in the following articles on this topic:

To read an actual lawsuit filed by the Attorney General of Ohio, click here.

AUTHOR

Karen

For more than a decade, Karen has been researching and writing about drug trafficking, drug abuse, addiction and recovery. She has also studied and written about policy issues related to drug treatment.