Opioid painkillers help many people afflicted with chronic pain live near-normal lives. Without opioids, many chronic pain sufferers may not be able to work, care for others, or even perform household chores like washing dishes or sweeping floors. Although prescription opioids have been available in the United States for over one hundred years, opioids have recently made a big splash in the world of litigation. Despite them just now getting deserved attention, poppy plants — the precursors to opioid painkillers and heroin alike — have been used by humans for centuries.
Drugs have been a staple of human history for many years, and are likely to continue being a part of most people’s lives. Coffee, tobacco, alcohol, marijuana, hard drugs, and prescription medications all fit the bill for the aforementioned drugs. In recent United States history, various drugs have caught flak for various reasons.
Alcohol was prohibited about a century ago, then made legal and regulated due to the crime and danger associated with bootleg alcohol. Tobacco makers were sued in the 1990s for pushing unarguably deadly tobacco products to consumers without appropriately representing their risks.
An industry-wide penalty was placed on the United States’ largest tobacco manufacturers in 1998, being forced to pay $250 billion throughout future years. Experts believe class-action lawsuits against opioid painkiller manufacturers, developers, and marketers may appear very soon. Although the tobacco market of the 1990s was much larger than the prescription opioid market of today in the United States, possibilities for suing are very real.
Some attorneys have pointed out glaring differences in the two addiction-forming scenarios. Tobacco companies sold their products directly to consumers, with any United States citizen over the age of 18 with valid identification being able to purchase, and use, tobacco. Prescription opioids, on the other hand, require healthcare professionals to prescribe them. Even opioids have been redirected from prescription holders into the hands of street drug users, effectively finding their ways into mouths, noses, and veins of millions of Americans, pharmaceutical companies are not directly to blame.
With the opioid crisis birthing countless detrimental outcomes by the day, turning many prescription opioid users into heroin addicts, litigation is certain to become actuality in the next few years. The outcome of lawsuits, however, is clearly up for debate.
Only coming years will determine the fate of opioid-producing pharmaceutical giants.