Narcotic painkillers (opioids) can be life-saving for those struggling with chronic pain. They can also provide a strong high for those seeking to abuse these powerful drugs. Where is the line drawn between use and abuse? And more importantly, who is responsible when these drugs are misused and people suffer addiction or death?
Some people blame the doctors for prescribing more than necessary. Others think the patients should be responsible with their own use. Right now, the spotlight is on the drug companies who allegedly ship more opioids than necessary to certain communities.
Do drug companies understand the risk of prescription opioids, and have they been recklessly and knowingly funneling excessive amounts of pain pills into certain communities? These questions are on the minds of those living in communities plagued by opioid overdose deaths.
An Ohio federal judge has put together bellwether cases (a small consolidation of lawsuits, taken from a larger group of similar cases) as part of a multidistrict litigation (MDL) against opioid manufacturers and distributors. This MDL "involves more than 250 lawsuits targeting various drugmakers, major distributors, and pharmacy chains. Damages could reach into the hundreds of billions of dollars." These cases will resolve disputed legal issues and bring hundreds of lawsuits towards a settlement.
Ohio U.S. District Judge Dan Aaron Polster ordered the Drug Enforcement Agency to divulge sales data for six states (Ohio, West Virginia, Illinois, Michigan, Florida and Alabama) for prescription opioids from 2006-2014. The order was issued in early February and after much filibustering, the DEA released the information in early May.
The courts are using data from the DEA to see which drug companies are sending more opioids than necessary. This data has given the plaintiffs' (which include local governments, unions, and hospitals) lawyers valuable information to help them move forward with the cases, especially with which drug companies to include or exclude in the MDL.
The drug distributors have become the biggest targets because the county by county marketshare in which they distribute differs greatly. Certain counties are receiving an exorbitant amount of pills, and knowing which distributors provide for these counties help determine who is at fault.
Judge Polster said, "the DEA data is allowing both the litigation and settlement tracks of this MDL to proceed based on meaningful, objective data, not conjecture or speculation. Moreover, the data is providing invaluable, highly specific information regarding historic patterns of opioid sales, which are proving very interesting to law enforcement."
The lawsuits generally allege that the medication makers overstated the drugs' benefits and downplayed their risks. Have you or someone you know had to deal with the effects of the overprescription of pain killers? Addiction? Lifestyle degradation? Even death? Get in touch with Reich and Binstock, and we can help you receive the settlement you deserve.