In an interesting turn of events a number of states and cities blighted by the recent opioid epidemic sweeping the country have started filing lawsuits against select pharmaceutical companies. Individual counties in states hardest hit by the opioid epidemic have also decided to file lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies like Purdue Pharma LP.
Legal experts claim that these lawsuits might have an uphill battle in the courts since all of the drugs in question are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. This makes it much tougher for a state to allege that the addictive potential of these drug companies was downplayed or pushed aside by the pharmaceutical companies behind the opioid medication.
The most recent state to join the spate of lawsuits against pharmaceutical giants like Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. and Johnson and Johnson’s is Ohio.
Ohio in particular and other states more broadly are arguing that states have been losing revenue by filing unnecessary prescriptions. States are also seeking compensation for the costs associated with these medications as well as state-funded addiction treatment centers that received funds associated with the rising opioid epidemic.
Surprisingly, this legal battle between the states and five large pharmaceutical companies has a recent legal precedent. In 1998 over 45 states received more than $200 billion in compensation when the courts ruled that major tobacco companies downplayed the addictive potential of cigarettes in their packaging and advertisements.
The same sort of allegations are being made today by states, cities, and counties across the United States that feel their residents and state budget’s have been adversely affected by the claims that pharmaceutical companies have been making. Many states, including Mississippi, feel that patients weren’t informed of all the risks before filling their prescriptions.
Unfortunately, for plaintiffs like the state of Mississippi these lawsuits might be exceedingly difficult to win in court. The reason is twofold. First, plaintiff’s attorneys are rationally worried about the fact that one or all five of these pharmaceutical companies could be protected by the fact that these opioid medications had FDA approval before making it to market.
The second reason that pharmaceutical companies like Johnson and Johnson’s stand on fairly solid legal ground is that the warning labels on these medications clearly state the addictive potential of the drugs in question. A judge in Orange County California, furthermore, stopped a case due to fears that pending lawsuits would stymie long-term opioid treatment.