Hospitals Take On Big Pharma Over Opioid Crisis

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Over 20 Hospitals Unite In A Class Action Lawsuit Against Big Pharma, Alleging A Role In The Opioid Crisis Through Deceptive Marketing Practices.

More than 20 hospitals have come together in a class action lawsuit that strikes at the heart of the opioid epidemic in the United States. Filed in an Ohio federal court on February 26, the complaint sheds light on how some of the biggest names in the pharmaceutical and retail pharmacy sectors are accused of contributing to a nationwide health emergency.

What's being said

At the core of this lawsuit is the claim that major pharmaceutical companies, alongside drug distributors and pharmacy chains, have played a significant role in fueling the opioid crisis. This crisis has not only led to a staggering increase in opioid-related substance abuse, hospitalizations, and deaths but has also placed a heavy financial burden on healthcare providers.

The hospitals allege that these companies engaged in a systematic campaign to increase opioid prescriptions, sales, and profits through deceptive marketing practices. These practices included downplaying the risks of addiction and overstating the benefits of opioids for chronic pain management. As a result, opioid prescriptions and use have seen a dramatic rise over the past few decades, with opioid overdose deaths in 2021 being ten times higher than those in 1999.

Who's in the hot seat?

Pharmaceutical giants like Teva Pharmaceuticals, Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Allergan, and AbbVie are accused of orchestrating a large-scale marketing scheme. This scheme, often unbranded, allegedly aimed to mislead healthcare professionals and the public about the safety and efficacy of their opioids for treating chronic pain.

The lawsuit accuses these companies of spending millions on a "misinformation campaign" to "deny, trivialize, or materially understate" the addictive risks of opioids. It goes further to allege that these companies promoted false narratives, such as the low risk of addiction from chronic opioid therapy and the idea of "pseudoaddiction," which suggests that signs of addictive behavior indicate a need for more opioids, not less.

The supply chain beyond the pills

In addition to pharmaceutical companies, the complaint names distributors and pharmacy chains like Cencora, Anda, Cardinal, McKesson, Walgreens, CVS, and Walmart. These entities are accused of maintaining a "deep level of interaction and cooperation" with pharmaceutical companies to facilitate the oversupply of opioids. They allegedly ignored "red flags" of suspicious orders, contributing to the crisis.

A call for accountability

The hospitals involved are seeking justice for the financial and operational strains they have faced due to the influx of patients with opioid-related conditions. This case not only seeks reparation for affected hospitals but also aims to spotlight the need for more responsible practices in the pharmaceutical industry.

The hospitals are represented by John W. (“Don”) Barrett of Barrett Law Group PA; Warren Burns, Darren Nicholson, Korey A. Nelson, and Natalie Earles of Burns Charest LLP; and Micah Marcus of McDonald Hopkins.

The Prescription opioid accountability litigation is In Re: National Prescription Opiate Litigation, MDL No. 1:24-op-45006-DAP, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio Eastern Division.

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