I have blogged about the opioid crisis which is enveloping the entire country (see: Pharmaceutical Companies and PBMs Helped to Create Our Opioid Crisis). The Sackler family, owners of Purdue Pharma, have been much in the news with assertions by some media that the company, when marketing OxyContin, conspired to downplay its addictive qualities (see: THE SECRETIVE FAMILY MAKING BILLIONS FROM THE OPIOID CRISIS; The Family That Built an Empire of Pain). It should therefore not come as a surprise that some governmental bodies such as Detroit/Wayne County are suing drug manufacturers for having caused the chaos and deaths due to opioid addictions (see: Oakland, Wayne sue drug makers over opioid crisis). Below is an excerpt from this article:
Oakland and Wayne counties are suing several pharmaceutical makers over what they call "deceptive marketing practices" amid a rising number of opioid deaths....Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson and Wayne County Executive Warren Evans announced a joint federal lawsuit against drug makers...."The opioid industry has taken a page out of big tobacco's playbook," Patterson said Thursday...."They utilized misleading information, marketing campaigns, and studies to convince the public that their product was safe. They put profits over people and now people are paying the price, some with their lives." Their suit...alleges several drug makers intentionally misled doctors and patients about their products' appropriate uses, risks and safety while downplaying the risks of addiction....The lawsuit seeks to stop drug companies from making further false or misleading statements about opioids and stop them from not reporting suspicious drug orders. It also seeks legal costs and damages....Caitlin Carroll, a spokeswoman for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America...said the group cannot comment on legal matters relating to specific member companies.
Note the reference in this excerpt to the analogy between the "opioid industry" and the "tobacco industry." And like the tobacco industry in the past, the opioid manufacturers are now subject to myriad lawsuits including various class actions (see: Are Pharmaceutical Companies to Blame for the Opioid Epidemic?). Here is a quote from this article which suggests that it's unwise to draw too many parallels between the opioid and tobacco cases because those addicted to the drugs are said to have caused their own problems:
But the situation differs in significant ways from the tobacco example, and proving the pharmaceutical companies are responsible will be difficult. Individual plaintiffs who have sued pharmaceutical companies over how opioids have been marketed have rarely been successful....Courts have made clear that they believe that individual victims are largely responsible for their addiction. People who die of overdoses are often using the pills not as they were prescribed, but are obtaining the pills on the black market. They are disregarding doctors’ prescriptions and taking more than is safe.
It's going to take some time for all of this to play out and I suspect that the plaintiff's attorneys in these cases will try to develop a strategy that works well in the courtroom. Meanwhile, there may be a no safe harbor for many healthcare organizations. Even the Joint Commission is being sued for failure tp set up standards that could have avoided the opioid crisis (see: ‘This is just the beginning’: Scope of opioid lawsuits widens to include hospital accreditor).