This June, the New York Times wrote that 64,000 people died from drug overdoses nationwide in 2016, up from 52,000 in 2015. These numbers make drug overdoses the leading cause of death in people under the age of 50. Given that more than 30 states, cities and counties have either filed lawsuits or are formally recruiting lawyers in the prelude to litigation-- according to a Financial Times analysis, the amount of legal action—and subsequent settlement-- has been likened to that of the $2 billion paid by the tobacco industry back in 1998. And big pharma has deep pockets.
Delaware County was the first county in Pennsylvania to sue the makers of addictive painkillers.The Inquirer reported that Delaware County had logged 145 opioid-related drug deaths since the beginning of 2017, and police officers in the county had saved more than 877 lives using the overdose-reversing medication naloxone (more about that below). The drug manufacturers named in the lawsuit include Teva, Janssen, Endo, and Purdue Pharma. “We are tired of going to funerals of children of our friends because pharmaceuticals are giving them medications they know are addictive,” Dave White, co-chair of the county’s Heroin Task Force, told philly.com. And attorney Robert J. Mongeluzzi said that, “The opioid manufacturers in their relentless pursuit for profit created disinformation to hoodwink and convince doctors that opioids weren’t addictive when they were…”
Here are the big five opioid manufacturers:
- Purdue Pharma makes Oxycontin;
- Endo Pharmaceuticals makes Percocet and Opana ER (the latter was taken off the market in July at the request of the FDA);
- Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen Pharmaceuticals makes the fentanyl patch Duragesic;
- Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, owns Cephalon Inc., which makes a fentanyl “lollipop” called Actiq.;
- Allergan makes Norco and Kadian
Meanwhile, drug companies are fighting back. The Associated Press (Sept. 27) reported that drug companies have asked a judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed by Oklahoma's attorney general accusing them of fueling the state's opioid epidemic through fraudulent marketing. And the Oklahoman reported that Purdue Pharma, Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc., Allergan PLC and several other pharmaceutical companies recently filed a brief saying they've complied with the FDA’s requirements to warn the public about potential risks that come with using their drugs.
READ MORE OPIOID EPIDEMIC LEGAL NEWS
As for Purdue Pharma, it told The Plain Dealer that, "OxyContin accounts for less than two percent of the opioid analgesic prescription market nationally, but we are an industry leader in the development of abuse-deterrent technology, advocating for the use of prescription drug monitoring programs and supporting access to Naloxone— all important components for combating the opioid crisis."
One could speculate that supporting Naloxone is like “double-dipping”. Naloxone, also known as Narcan, is made by Amphastar, which raised the price of its drug by about 1,000 percent. According to Fierce Pharma, a pharmaceutical-industry news site, the price of one Naloxone dose rose to $41 in January 2015, up from $0.92 a dose in 2005. Cha-ching.