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Illinois Fights Opioid Crisis with Class Action Suit

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St. Clair County, IllinoisThe opioid addiction crisis has hit St. Clair County, Illinois hard. They are fighting back in a class action lawsuit charging the Purdue Pharma and Abbot Laboratories Inc. put profits ahead of the health and safety of its customers by underplaying the potential harm associated with highly addictive narcotics.

“This action represents merely the first step of St. Clair County’s litigation efforts to hold these drug manufacturers accountable,” says Illinois state attorney, Brendan Kelly hinting the state may target other big pharma companies with opioid marketing strategies.

“We are engaged in many efforts to combat the opioid crisis. While we do not wish to comment on litigation strategy, we do intend to hold all those manufacturers who share blame for the opioid crisis responsible for their actions in court.”

Illinois now joins two other states, Mississippi and Ohio that have also filed lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies alleging a calculated and profit motivated role in the opioid crisis that has had a devastating impact on millions of Americans and their families plus unfathomable costs to state health and safety budgets.

“We also are seeking St. Clair County’s expenses for dealing with the wrongful conduct of the manufacturers that led St. Clair County to expend money for the prescription and management of these drugs,” says Kelly. “The cost to St. Clair County can only be partially measured in actual dollars.”

Although it is difficult to calculate how many opioid addicts there are in attorney Kelly’s jurisdiction he says, “Not every user is an addict and most addicts don’t volunteer that information. Unfortunately, in many instances the first time we become aware of an addict is when they overdose. Suffice to say, the DEA data on the numbers of pills flowing in St. Clair County, versus other Counties in the State, demonstrate that we have a comparatively large user base in St. Clair County which doesn’t fit any legitimate medical reason,” says Kelly.

Until the late 1990s, these kinds of super pain killers were used for short term treatment of post-operative patients or patients that were terminally ill and at the end stage of life. The complaint alleges that drug companies deliberately worked to convince the public and physicians that opioids were an acceptable approach to “long term treatment of common aches and pains, like lower back pain, arthritis and headaches.”

According to the complaint filed by the Illinois state attorney, Brendan Kelly, the pharmaceutical companies sought “to expand the market for opioids and realize blockbuster profits” by creating a change in perception about the use of pain killers like Oxycodone and Percocet. They are derived from opium and heroin and have the same addictive properties.

The complaint alleges the defendants spent millions of dollars “developing and disseminating seemingly truthful scientific and educational materials and advertising that misrepresented the risks, benefits and superiority of opioids used long-term to treat chronic pain”.

The court documents detail Purdue’s practice of engaging “KOLs”, or key opinion leaders like doctors, to promote the value of opioids as an appropriate treatment for chronic pain. The company also engaged “Front Groups”, or information and research organizations, funded by Purdue to put forward “misleading” and “unsubstantiated” information about these kinds of drugs.

And it worked. According to the Illinois complaint Purdue’s national sales of the opioid OxyContin soared along with its new marketing strategy.

The documents state that Purdue’s sales of OxyContin went from an annual revenue of $45 million in 1996 to $15.3 billion in overall national opioid revenue in 2016.

The number of addicts in Illinois soared as well and by 2014 the state had 71 certified Opioid treatment programs.

“The current lawsuit is an attempt to recover money from the manufacturers for their false statements to the people of Illinois and St. Clair County residents and to force them to pay a statutory penalty as a result.

“We also are seeking St. Clair County’s expenses for dealing with the wrongful conduct of the manufacturers that led St. Clair County to expend money for the prescription and management of these drugs,” says Kelly.

The grounds for the action include unjust enrichment, insurance fraud, civil conspiracy and violations of the uniform deceptive practices act.

“We believe a class action suit is an important tool that we possess to hold them accountable in court,” says Kelly. “We didn’t create the opioid crisis. They did. We have to use every tool at our disposal to protect both the community and the users themselves from the ravages of this epidemic. We believe it is important that the companies that created this problem share in the cost of fixing it.”

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READER COMMENTS

Posted by

on
Although I'm happy to see Big Pharma be taken to task for their part in this 'epidemic', I also fear further backlash against patients with valid and legitimate pain issues that need these drugs just to function and possibly have some sort of quality of life. Often, the only way they're able to keep working is because they use opiates.
Now these people are being all lumped together as addicts and being forced to conform to blanket laws that don't discriminate between each individual case.
I was injured on the job 16.5 years ago, have had 15 major surgeries, (that doesn't even include all the out-patient treatments, tests, and surgeries) and now "live" with the broken hardware that has failed after each of the 5 back surgeries.
I've had so many xrays, CT Scans & MRIs that I'm pn the verge of low dose radiation poisoning, yet. At my request, I've consistently kept my narcotic use down as low as possible and have actively sought out alternative and all natural options. Most of which aren't covered by any insurance and one, that although it's finally been legalized for my condition, it's impossible to get legal access to.
There is a difference between dependence and addiction. Addiction includes a whole set of behavioural patterns as well as the onset of acute withdrawal, while dependence also results in acute withdrawal if stopped abruptly or without proper weaning, it's a direct result of taking a medication for a certain amount of time, even when following the prescription to the letter. It is the mechanics of how opiates, and many, many, other drugs work. Including the new favorites of Lyrica & Cymbalta, which aren't labelled as opiates or narcotics but will also put you into the awful hell of withdrawal if stopped.
Many doctors didn't know this when they started to prescribe them and again listened to Big Pharma, believing what they where told, while trying to out prescribe the last guy to get a fabulous-vacation-away-from-it-all or some other form of kick back.
How rarely are the doctors & big pharma blamed in the erroneous news reports that flood our airwaves?
More and more often it's the patients themselves that are wholly held accountable.
I can't tell you how many pain dr offices I've been in, with big beautiful posters & pamphlets of happy patients getting PT, chiro care, massage, etc adorning the walls, just to be told 'that's not available' when I've inquired about them. But wait Miss, here's three prescriptions we can give you! See you next month!
While I'm not denying there is a serious problem, we need to be just at serious in making sure the people who do use these meds as prescribed and need them to function, are not tossed out with the bath water.
So, while I'm happy to see someone trying to do something to hold the pharmaceutical companies liable for their part, I hope that it's done with the patients ' best interests at heart.

Posted by

on
I would like to know if this Class Action Law suit is ongoing also in Virginia. I had my previous Doctor tell me to my face that the drug producers and doctors were told to push the Perocet, ect Oxycodone for their patients pain and then they have this situation of which I am involved.

Posted by

on
I was addicted to Morphine for over 5 years, and I wanted to quit my doctor wanted to give me more. I am sober and drug free almost 12 months now. Doctors believe these drugs are the solution to pain, myself I believed that for a long time, but not anymore. I just wish that I never started, but sometimes you get someone to step up to the task of helping others.

Posted by

on
Not everyone that uses opioids are addicts. There are people that have degenerative conditions and truly need them to function. I know because I'm one of them. All this lawsuit aims to accomplish is to make it even harder for us to get the medication we need. It's already hard enough. I think it's high time we find something else to worry about. We never hear about all the cocaine users etc. Opioids have a legitimate medical use, unlike the illegal drugs. Obviously if you've never experienced chronic pain from a degenerative condition you will never understand. It makes me sick to constantly hear about the supposed "opioid crisis". There will always be addicts, nobody just seems to worry about other drug addicts.

Posted by

on
I totally oppose to this lawsuit as I do believe that there are many chronic care patients who rely on this medicine to live a somewhat normal life without pain. If you are so against the drug then stop taking them and blaming the pharmaceutical companies.
All these frivolous lawsuits are making it harder for the patients who rely on these drugs to obtain them and are raising the costs to buy them.
Maybe if the drug addicts would stop taking them to get high we would not have this problem!! The pharmaceutical companies clearly mark on the bottles exactly what the outcome is if taking this medicine on a long term or short term basis for that matter. So it's a matter of choice!! No one is twisting your arm to take this medicine and there are rehab drugs that will warn you off the meds like Suboxin.

Posted by

on
Way to go ! Wohoo L. Finally

Posted by

on
I have no position regarding conduct or practices
by Big Pharma as to contributing to creating
opioid addiction. I write to make one point: the alliance of the big pharma companies and the health insurance
companies is all about profit and zero about
people. We know from correspondence that we receive
(usually in early January) that those those industries
both 1) work hand in hand to maximize mutual profits
and also 2) to keep statistics beneficial (i.e., profitable [whether politically or monetarily--insofar as there is
any difference] to the team of companies in
pharma/insurance/lobbying). Those companies
know whether a soul missed a couple pills out of
the "prescribed" amount. Perhaps that same
database could be used to red-flag a soul
whose brain and actions are mastered by an
opioid addiction. Final thought: As the truth teller
"Deep Throat" said regarding the Watergate
craziness, "Follow the money."

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