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Attorneys General Investigating Role of Drug Makers in Opioid Epidemic

In response to the growing opioid epidemic, the attorneys general of several states have launched an investigation into the role that drug companies may be playing. The probe specifically focuses on the companies’ opioid marketing and sales practices, which have fueled the uptick in pain medication use across the United States.

"We are looking into what role, if any, marketing and related practices might have played in the increasing prescription and use of these powerful and addictive drugs," District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine said in a statement. He added: “Although we are not identifying any specific targets of our investigation at this time, if we turn up evidence that marketing practices played an unlawful role in the exponential growth of opioid prescriptions, rest assured: We will take action.”

Opioids were involved in 33,091 overdose deaths nationwide in 2015. In addition, opioid overdoses have quadrupled since 1999. Meanwhile, the pharmaceutical industry makes more than $24 billion each year from pain medication. In 2016, doctors wrote approximately 300 million opioid prescriptions to U.S. patients. Given that the population of the country is 330 million, that is nearly one prescription per person.

Lawsuits Against Opioid Drug Companies

In Ohio, Attorney General Mike DeWine has already filed suit against opioid drug manufacturers for misrepresenting the risks associated with the potent medications. The suit specifically alleges that the pharmaceutical companies:

(1) downplayed the serious risk of addiction; (2) promoted the concept of “pseudoaddiction” and thus advocated that the signs of addiction should be treated with more opioids; (3) exaggerated the effectiveness of screening tools in preventing addiction; (4) claimed that opioid dependence and withdrawal are easily managed; (5) denied the risks of higher opioid dosages; and (6) exaggerated the effectiveness of “abuse-deterrent” opioid formulations to prevent abuse and addiction.

The suit further maintains that the opioid manufacturers “falsely touted the benefits of long-term opioid use, including the supposed ability of opioids to improve function and quality of life, even though there was no ‘good evidence’ to support Defendants’ claims.” The defendants named in the suit include Purdue Pharma LP, Johnson & Johnson, Endo International Plc, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd, and Allergan Plc.

The State of Mississippi has filed a similar suit. Several other local governments, including two California counties, are also taking legal action.

If you or someone you love has suffered serious harm due to a dangerous or defective drug, don’t hesitate to contact a San Diego product liability attorney at the Law Offices of Robert Vaage for a free consultation.