2018 Opioid Lawsuit News: As of November 2018, more than 1,300 opioid lawsuits have been filed in federal courts. If you or a loved one has suffered from addiction after being given opioid painkillers by your doctor, talk with an opioid law firm today.
Since 1999, there has been a 300% increase in opioid prescriptions in the United States. Along with this increase, there has been a deadly uptick in opioid addiction, which is now the leading cause of death in individuals under age 50. While many opioid abusers buy illegal substances like heroin, one study showed that 75% of people addicted since 2000 reported their first opioid was a prescription drug.
Now, the opioid crisis has led to thousands of lawsuits being filed against doctors, hospitals, pharmacies, and drugmakers, blaming them for the increase in opioid addiction, overdoses, and drug-related deaths in America. While many of these lawsuits initially were filed by governments, more and more individuals are filing opioid lawsuits, saying these pharmaceutical companies and medical practices are responsible for improperly touting the benefits of opioids, without properly informing patients of the risks.
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Why People Are Filing Opioid Lawsuits
Many lawsuits related to opioids claim that prescription painkillers triggered an individual’s addiction. Some plaintiffs allege that their addiction started with prescription drugs and moved on to illegal opioids like heroin when their prescriptions ran out, resorting to criminal activity to steal or pay for more drugs as a result of their addiction.
There are generally three types of claims made, depending on who is named as a defendant in the lawsuit:
Pharmaceutical Companies: Plaintiffs claim that drug companies hid evidence of the dangers of opioids by downplaying their highly addictive nature. They also claim that pharma companies used aggressive or fraudulent marketing tactics (such as fake “advocacy” campaigns), set sales quotas for representatives, and offered financial kickbacks to doctors who prescribed opioids.
Doctors: Some doctors and medical practices have been named as defendants because they prescribed opioids in cases where it may not have been medically necessary to do so, prescribed higher doses than required, or extended and refilled prescriptions longer than they should have.
Pharmacies: Companies like CVS Health have been sued based on claims that they failed to monitor and report suspicious prescription activity, making it easier for doctors to overprescribe.
Companies Facing Opioid Lawsuits
- AmerisourceBergen Corp
- Cardinal Health
- Endo Pharmaceuticals
- Johnson & Johnson (and its subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals)
- McKesson Corporation
- Purdue Pharma LP
- Teva Pharmaceuticals (and its subsidiary, Cephalon)
Opioid Side Effects in Lawsuit Claims
Common among individual opioid lawsuits are claims related to symptoms and severe side effects of opioid addiction and abuse. Many of these include severe health issues related to overdose, such as:
- Brain damage
- Heart damage
Lawsuits may also include damages for other costs, such as emergency treatment, rehabilitation, loss of job or other income, arrest, and other situations caused by their opioid addiction that put family and finances at risk.
A growing number of parents, grandparents, or other guardians have been filing lawsuits on behalf of opioid-addicted babies (sometimes referred to as “opioid babies”). These are infants who are born with an existing drug addiction because the mother used narcotics while she was pregnant – either because she herself was addicted, or because she was prescribed the medication.
After birth, opioid babies begin experiencing symptoms of withdrawal. Because of their size and the fact that their organs, bones, and tissues are still developing, the opioids in their system can also cause many other long-term health complications.
Unfortunately, as the opioid crisis continues to affect more people, there will be even more opioid babies born. Some attorneys have called for a new federal multidistrict litigation (MDL) to handle these opioid baby lawsuits, indicating that they likely expect the number of cases to increase for some time to come.
Opioid Marketing and Kickback Programs
A major aspect of opioid lawsuits is the unethical, and in some cases illegal, marketing tactics used by pharmaceutical corporations to increase sales and profits. For example, the State of New Jersey filed a 100-page complaint against Purdue Pharma claiming the company used manipulative marketing tactics. The company repeatedly backed claims that its drugs were safe for long-term use, even longer than the 12-week treatment times for which it was approved.
An investigation by the state found more evidence of unethical practices, such Purdue Pharma requiring representatives to visit as many as eight different doctors each week, effectively “blanketing” the state. Furthermore, sales representatives were paid based on quotas, similar to a commission for retail sales. The Attorney General’s office for NJ estimated each drug representative was responsible for about 500 – 700 prescriptions per month.
Other practices, like financial kickbacks for prescribing doctors, have also been called out by the lawsuits against opioid manufacturers. These incentives encourage doctors to prescribe opioids for longer lengths of time than recommended, or for conditions like chronic pain where their use may be unnecessary or inappropriate.
Current Opioid Litigation
Because the opioid crisis has affected so many people, families, and communities across the country, a variety of lawsuits have been filed in recent years by individuals, organizations, and governments.
Were you or a loved one addicted to painkillers?Talk with an opioid lawyer today
Individual Opioid Lawsuits
Individuals and surviving family members have filed thousands of opioid lawsuits, against both doctors and corporations. Many of these legal actions were submitted in response to the loss of a loved one caused by overdose.
Common claims that individuals or their families make include:
- Drug companies falsely advertised their opioid medications as safe, downplaying the risks of addiction.
- Doctors prescribed unnecessary opioids, and in some cases failed to recognize signs of drug abuse.
- Pharmacies over-distributed and failed to properly monitor and report suspicious prescription patterns.
In recent years, a number of individual opioid lawsuits have come to to the forefront as the media has highlighted issues around the drug epidemic.
Notable Individual Opioid Lawsuits
|The estates of Philip Patrick Hickman, Carrie Lynne Huff and Pamela Cowger (all deceased)||Dr. Edita Milan||The estates claim that Dr. Milan consistently over-prescribed opioids to her patients, disregarding protocols to help avoid addiction. All three patients in this case died from overdoses.|
|Mother of Charles P. Reichenbach II (deceased)||Dr. Yee C. Ho, Allegany County Hospital||Reichenbach was brought to the emergency room with a suspected overdose. The lab found opioids and alcohol in his blood tests. Despite this, Dr. Ho prescribed the patient both oxycodone and a fentanyl patch. Reichenbach died less than 24 hours later from an overdose with these drugs|
|Mrs. Moyers, wife of Bret Moyers (deceased)||Lake Hospital System, Dr. Nancy Rodway||In response to a work-related injury, Moyers was prescribed opioids for 5 years. The claim argues that Rodway was over-prescribing, and neglected to spot or treat signs of addiction. The suit also claims that the hospital’s policies failed to create or adhere to opioid prescribing policies, in response to the opioid epidemic in Pennsylvania.|
|Family of Justin Lenz (deceased)||Dr. Michael Belfiore||Lenz began seeing Belfiore in 2009 for chronic back pain. In 2012, after being prescribed 60 1-mg Xanax tablets and 120 30-mg Oxycodone tablets, the patient overdosed and died. VERDICT: In this case, Dr. Belfiore was found liable for his prescribing actions. Part of the money awarded went to Lenz’s daughter, who was just 8 ½ at the time of his death.|
|Family of Sarah Fuller (deceased)||Insys Therapeutics, Linden Care (pharmacy), and Dr. Vivienne Matalon||The basis of this case was that Fuller was prescribed Subsys, an opioid that was approved for breakthrough cancer pain, despite the fact that she did not have cancer. Fuller had in fact been in 2 car accidents. After a being prescribed a high dose of Subsys, Fuller was hospitalized for “hyper sedation.” She was taken off the medication and told to wean off of oxycontin. Still, Dr. Matalon prescribed Subsys again. Fuller died of an overdose in 2016. Matalon’s medical license was suspended, while the medical board investigates her actions.|
Compensation can help cover funeral costs, or serve as remuneration for pain and suffering. Or, as in the case of Mr. Lenz’s daughter, can help the children of these victims as they grow up.
County, Municipal, and Tribal Opioid Lawsuits
Over 1,300 opioid lawsuits have been filed by county, municipal, and tribal governments, according to the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML). These have been consolidated into MDL 2804 in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, with oversight by Judge Dan Aaron Polster.
Most of these lawsuits are filed against large pharmaceutical corporations, though some call out “influential doctors” who either prescribed high numbers of opioid prescriptions, participated in industry-funded studies, or received kickbacks from drug companies.
These claims are filed in the hopes of offsetting the massive costs of handling the epidemic, which are estimated at over $55 billion across the nation per year. Whether through a jury verdict or a settlement, these government entities would use the damages to cover:
- Increased expense of drug treatment programs, including new treatment and rehabilitation centers
- Reimbursing hospitals, Medicaid, and other public health organizations or agencies
- Increases in the need for ambulances and EMTs
- Costs of the increased need for law enforcement, prosecution, and incarceration due to drug-related criminal activity
State Attorneys General
Too often, prescription opioids are the on-ramp to addiction for millions of Americans.New York Attorney General
Forty-one states have joined in a coalition to investigate opioid makers, including Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Endo International, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries/Cephalon, and Allergan. A supplemental investigation has been launched against Purdue Pharma.
The coalition is also investigating opioid drug distributors who make about $500 billion in revenue each year. “Too often, prescription opioids are the on-ramp to addiction for millions of Americans,” said Attorney General Schneiderman, who represents New York in the coalition.
A previous investigation by the State of Illinois found that “drug companies pressure physicians into prescribing powerful, addictive drugs without regard for the law or patients’ well-being,” according to Illinois Attorney General, Lisa Madigan.
List of States that Have Filed Opioid Lawsuits
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
President Donald Trump has declared the opioid crisis a Nationwide Public Health Emergency. As such, the White House held an Opioid Summit in March 2018 that included people affected by abuse of prescription painkillers and organizations that are helping people fight addiction.
During the summit, President Trump called on the U.S. Department of Justice to pursue a federal opioid lawsuit against Big Pharma companies, to make them pay for their role in causing harmful, and sometimes fatal, addictions to their drugs, in addition to tougher sentencing for illegal drugs. Shortly after the summit, DOJ officials announced that they would share data related to prescription painkiller sales with state and local governments to facilitate opioid lawsuits against drug companies.
Selected Opioid Settlements
As companies find themselves facing more and more lawsuits, they may be pressured by shareholders, government officials, and public sentiment to settle. Some settlements by pharmaceutical companies, pharmacies, and other defendants in opioid lawsuits are noted below.
Mallinckrodt Plc — $35 million — April 3, 2017 — Mallinckrodt Plc agreed to pay to resolve an investigation into their monitoring and reporting methods for suspicious orders of controlled substances. This was the first time a drug manufacturer was targeted in this type of investigation.
Costco Wholesale — $11.75 million — January 19, 2017 — This investigation ended in a settlement over claims that Costco had irresponsibly filled improper or incomplete prescriptions. Some of the prescriptions even lacked valid Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) numbers.
McKesson Corporation — $150 million — January 17, 2017 — McKesson agreed to pay the $150 million civil penalty after it was found to have violated the Controlled Substances Act. According to the allegations, McKesson had failed to report suspicious orders of controlled drugs.
Cardinal Health Inc.— $20 million — January 9, 2017 — This was a settlement between the pharmacy company and the state of West Virginia, regarding a failure to report suspicious orders. A separate lawsuit is still underway for McDowell County, one of the counties in WV most impacted by the opioid epidemic.
Cardinal Health — $40 million — December 23, 2016 — This settlement also addressed questions that the distributor had violated the Controlled Substances Act. Like McKesson, they had failed to report suspicious orders. There was also scrutiny over the company’s record keeping, and whether it violated the Act as well.
Purdue Pharma — $24 million — December 23, 2015 — This payment settled a lawsuit that was filed in 2007 by the state of Kentucky against the maker of OxyContin. The claim cited that Purdue had marketed their drug as safe, especially because it was designed to release slowly. However, addicted users found that the pills could be crushed for a quicker release, a discovery which fueled the rapid growth of the opioid epidemic in Kentucky.
Opioid Lawsuit FAQs
Get answers to commonly asked questions about opioid lawsuits.
Can I File an Opioid Lawsuit?
Individuals or surviving family members may be able to file an opioid lawsuit if they suffered from drug addiction or other side effects of opioids. This includes:
- Severe withdrawal issues
- Mental health or behavioral problems
- Organ damage, such as to the heart or brain
- Overdose deaths
If your family has suffered from the results of opioid addiction, it is important to talk with an attorney who can help you understand your legal rights – claim a free case review today.
What Compensation Is Available for Opioid Lawsuits?
Individuals and families who file an opioid lawsuit often seek damages for some or all of the following reasons:
- Costs of treatments, including money spent on improperly prescribed opioid drugs
- Treatment expenses for addiction, including rehabilitation, drug-related hospitalizations, and the
- cost of Naloxone (also known as NARCAN, the antidote for overdoses)
- Legal expenses, from previous arrests or trials related to the addiction
- Loss of income, resulting from missed work, withdrawal symptoms, or time in a treatment center
- Funeral costs, in the tragic case of a loved one lost to an overdose
- Pain and suffering for the individual and their family
If you or your family have been affected by opioid addiction, or if you believe you were wrongly prescribed an opioid medication, talk to a lawyer to discuss your legal options.
How Much Does It Cost to File an Opioid Lawsuit?
The complexity and costs of an opioid lawsuit will differ with each individual case. The good news is that in most cases, plaintiffs will not have to pay these costs up front. Typically, law firms will take on opioid cases on a contingency basis, meaning that clients will not pay anything unless their lawyer helps them receive compensation as a result of their lawsuit or other legal action.
During your free evaluation, talk to your lawyer about the costs of your case and how much will come out of your final settlement or verdict amount. The amount is usually a percentage, which will cover all the various legal fees (such as court fees) and administrative costs of your case.
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