Drug Companies – Peddlers of opiates?

Searcy Denney Scarola Barnhart & Shipley

Opioids put nearly 1.3 million people in the hospital in one year.

Read this article with horror.

Yet another example of the devastating effects of Fentanyl and other opiate abuse in our country.  We have had a front row seat to this epidemic in Palm Beach County where our hospitals, social service agencies, and first responders are overwhelmed with the daily drug overdoses and rampant abuse of prescription drugs.  The scourge of opiate abuse has also challenged our state and local lawmakers, who are struggling to rid our community of sober homes that are merely fronts for illegal activity and to prosecute drug rehab patient brokers who have been encouraging addicts to relapse to obtain kick-backs.

We faced similar issues more than a decade ago with OxyContin, a prescription drug that destroyed so many lives, families, and communities across the country.  Sadly, the manufacturers of OxyContin largely escaped any legal liability for the havoc caused by their products, yet enjoyed obscene profits while turning a blind eye to the widespread abuse and improper marketing of the drug.

It is a devastating problem nationwide:

The sharpest increase in hospitalization and emergency room treatment for opioids was among people ages 25 to 44, echoing The Washington Post’s recent reporting that found overall death rates (from any cause) in that age bracket have gone up nationally since 2010 — a phenomenon seen in every racial and ethnic group other than Asian Americans.

Drug overdoses are a major driver of this mortality spike, and opioids, which range from prescription painkillers to heroin and fentanyl, cause the majority of fatal overdoses. In 2015, opioid overdoses killed 33,039 Americans, according to data that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released last December.

We are thrilled to see that several communities across the country are suing Big Pharma and seeking to make them pay for their role in this widespread abuse of the prescription pain killers they have been improperly marketing for years.  There are lots of legitimate uses for pain killers, and they are a godsend to those patients, but there are far too many patients being prescribed these lethal drugs improperly.   There are also some patients who make poor decisions that lead to their addiction and, often, death.  For many others, however, they did not choose their paths of addiction, and better choices by drug companies, healthcare providers, and others could have prevented their addiction and devastation to their lives.  Perhaps, the results will be different this time, and the drug companies will bear some legal responsibility for the harm they have helped to cause?  If not, history will only continue to repeat itself, and thousands of additional patients will lose their lives needlessly, while the rest of us will be forced to pay the emotional and financial costs of the dirty underbelly of the prescription opiate business.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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