Opioid Addiction Lawsuits
In the U.S. there was a near three-fold increase in the number of pain prescriptions over a 20-year period ending in about 2011, with some areas seeing even higher prescribing rates. Over prescribing, improper marketing, and abuse of opioid medications has resulted in an epidemic of overdose deaths and opioid addiction that some have called a health crisis.
Because of the increasing threats to public health and the costs of treating problems associated with overdose and addiction, many health and law enforcement agencies at federal, state, and local levels have filed opioid lawsuit against manufacturers and distributors along with pharmacies and physicians who improperly supply pain medications. In addition, people or loved ones of those who were harmed by pain medications have filed opioid addiction lawsuits against drug companies who illegally or improperly pushed the prescription drugs.
A large, federal opioid prescription lawsuit has been consolidated into multidistrict litigation (MDL) in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio. The MDL is being negotiated by the National Prescription Opioid Litigation (NPOL) Plaintiffs’ Executive Committee (PEC) on behalf of their over 3,000 community clients. A settlement proposal has been made by the committee which is led by a number of attorneys including Chris Seeger of Seeger Weiss.
Opioid Abuse and Addiction
Opioids are a class of medication which work to relieve severe pain by interaction with opioid receptors in the brain and other areas of the body. They are used as controlled substance prescriptions but may also be available illegally, as street drugs.
Up to 20% of the population in the U.S. claims to be living with chronic pain at any one time. While this number remains steady, the number of prescription pain reliever uses increased nearly 300% over a 20-year period beginning in the late 1990s. Unfortunately, many of opioid prescription medications have been improperly used for reasons of abuse rather than pain treatment.
Estimates show that about 3 million people in the U.S. may be living with an opioid dependence or addiction. Since 1999, overdose deaths have quadrupled to about 50,000 to 70,000 people annually, vastly exceeding the number of deaths by guns. These numbers have been growing for several years and remain a major public health concern.
In some cases, people may take medications which were prescribed to them inappropriately by taking too many, for too long or when they are not needed. In other cases, the pills may be taken by people who were not prescribed the medications. Either case is considered abuse and may lead to addiction. Once addicted, people may begin to seek illegal use of medications – either by purchasing someone else’s medication or by using illicit street drugs like heroin.
Purdue Opioid Lawsuit Settlements
Up to one-third of all adults in the U.S. got an opioid prescription in 2015 and recently, law enforcement and public health agencies began to sue manufacturers of opioid medications, for inappropriately marketing benefits and falsely claiming that the painkillers are not addictive. Health care practitioners are now under increasingly strict guidelines and public policy experts are attempting to help solve the opioid addiction crisis. This has resulted in a slew of opioid addiction lawsuit being filed by governmental agencies and individuals who have been forced to pay or who have suffered due to drug company and distributor actions.
Purdue Pharma, manufacturer of best-seller, OxyContin was founded and privately owned by the Sackler Family. The company has been a major target of opiate addiction lawsuits with some evidence showing that the company knew about the risks of addiction and purposefully misled prescribers, government agencies and patients.
Purdue faced legal trouble first in the mid-2000s and pleaded guilty in 2007 to federal charges. The company was accused of misleading federal regulators and others about the risks of addiction in OxyContin users. The lawsuit was settled with Purdue agreeing to pay more than $600 million in fines and penalties.
In September 2019, Purdue reached a tentative national settlement worth up to $12 billion but the company subsequently filed for bankruptcy and may be afforded some protection in future lawsuits. In November 2020, Purdue also pleaded guilty to conspiring to defraud the U.S. government and violating laws against kickback payments.
Part of the settlements have included contribution of about $4.5 billion and removal of the Sackler family from ownership of the company. Some claimants have objected as the family will be shielded from future lawsuits; however, the settlement was approved by a federal bankruptcy judge in September 2021.
Purdue will reportedly be reorganized with profits going towards prevention and treatment of addiction.
Other Opioid Addiction Lawsuit Settlements
Just before several bellwether trials against opioid manufacturers were set to go to court, several manufacturers and drug wholesale companies also reached agreements that may be viewed as predictor for legal claims already filed by nearly three thousand local, state, and tribal government agencies. The tentative settlement for $45 million from Teva for the Ohio cases came hours before opening statements were set to be delivered in a Cleveland case.
A national settlement, being negotiated by the National Prescription Opioid Litigation (NPOL) Plaintiff’s Executive Committee which includes Seeger Weiss partner, Chris Seeger, has been proposed which would require that drug companies would pay a total of $26 billion in cash, including $22.5 billion from Teva and $4 billion from Johnson & Johnson, along with $23 billion in provision of treatment medications like Suboxone. The payout is structured over nearly 2 decades, an agreement has not been reached yet.
Agreements reached included those with:
- Johnson & Johnson and subsidiary, Janssen Pharmaceuticals
- Teva Pharmaceutical Industries
- McKesson Corp
- Cardinal Health
- Amerisource Bergen
Lawsuits against individual pharmacies, as well as some filed in state and local courts have yet to be decided.
Opioid Addiction Lawyers
Though governmental agencies are making progress in dealing with the public health costs of opiate addiction, individuals have been harmed as well. People and loved ones of those who developed addiction or were injured by opioid medications are filing lawsuits against opioid manufacturers.
There are no guarantees, but past medical injury cases have provided compensation for:
- Medical costs
- Lost wages
- Pain and suffering
- Punitive damages
- Wrongful death