Prescription Opioids—The New Tobacco?

Opioid addiction plagues the lives of over two million Americans. Opioids are ostensibly benign prescription painkillers given to people after they sustain injuries or undergo surgery. At the time, they may seem necessary and helpful. And, sometimes they fully and unequivocally are.

However, due to drug companies’ aggressive and deceptive marketing tactics, drug manufacturers have made billions of dollars while turning millions of Americans into addicts by pushing doctors to overprescribe opioids when they are not needed. For example, OxyContin’s marketing strategy involved convincing doctors to prescribe this medication for a wide range of conditions that were not severe enough to warrant opioid use. Doctors began overprescribing opioids to patients, believing there was little risk of addiction. The result has been the prescription opioid epidemic.

Statistics gathered by the National Institute on Drug Abuse show prescriptions for opioids have increased from 76 million in 1991 to 207 million in 2013. Today, multiple companies produce dozens of drugs that have contributed to prescription opioid abuse, including:

  • Oxycodone;
  • Fentanyl;
  • Hydrocodone;
  • Hydromorphone;
  • Oxymorphone

In 2009, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that nearly 14,000 patients in the U.S. died that year as a result of poisoning or overdose caused by the use of prescription painkillers, more than twice the number of annual deaths just a decade before.

With the death toll ever rising, attorneys across the country have begun to file lawsuits, seeking to hold the pharmaceutical companies who marketed the drugs and downplayed their addictive nature to be legally responsible for—and made to pay for the consequences of—the crisis.

This may not be such an outlandish idea; in fact, there’s a good precedent. In 1998, the tobacco industry, 46 states, and six other jurisdictions entered into the largest civil-litigation settlement agreement in U.S. history. State attorney generals had sued tobacco companies, arguing that the companies should take up the burden of paying for the costs of treating smoking-related diseases. In the settlement, which left the tobacco industry immune from future state and federal suits, the companies agreed to make annual payments to the states, in perpetuity, to fund public-health programs and anti-smoking campaigns.

Will we see something similar with prescription opioids? Time will tell.

In the meantime, the companies that manufacture and distribute opioids are facing a barrage of lawsuits for the injuries and deaths their products have caused nationwide as the worst drug epidemic in U.S. history continues to escalate.  If you or a loved one has been injured or killed by one of these addictive and dangerous opioids, contact our law firm.  We have decades of experience successfully prosecuting large pharmaceutical companies on behalf of our clients.  Call (877) 643-3099 or contact us via our website contact form.