The nation is facing an unprecedented opioid epidemic that is fueled by pharmaceutical companies and over-prescription of pain medication. According to research published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), the opioid crisis has resulted in 300,000 deaths in this country since the year 2000. It could lead to half a million more deaths in the next decade. While substance abuse accounts for many opioid overdoses, most individuals became hooked on opioids through prescribed medication.
The opioid crisis has caused thousands of families heartbreak and grief. Addiction to opioid medications or heroin can ruin your life, finances, and health. However, if you have lost a loved one or yourself suffered from the devastating effects of opioid misuse, you could have legal recourse.
Knowing what to do in opioid litigation can be crucial for recovering compensation. We could help. Morgan & Morgan wants to stop profit-driven pharmaceuticals and unethical physicians from playing with people’s health. Our attorneys are committed to fighting hard for the rights of victims. Contact us today to get started with a free case review.
What Is Opioid Litigation?
Currently, there are several categories of opioid litigation:
1. Lawsuits Filed by Local Governments
More than 3,000 local and tribal agencies have filed multi-district litigation (MDL) against several large pharmaceutical companies manufacturing opioid pain medication.
2. Lawsuits Filed by States
Several states’ attorney generals have filed individual civil lawsuits against those implicated in the chain of distribution of opioid medications, including:
- Drug manufacturers
3. Civil Bankruptcy Cases
As a result of recent bankruptcy cases filed in federal court, Purdue Pharma was resolved in 2021, with the company’s owners ordered to pay billions in damages.
In early 2022, Mallinckrodt PLC, another company heavily implicated in the opioid crisis, received court approval to settle its opioid cases. The company was ordered to pay a settlement of $1.7 billion.
4. Individual Lawsuits
The majority of opioid litigation was initiated by local, state, and federal governments to deal with the spiraling costs and public health consequences of the opioid epidemic. However, thousands of individual lawsuits have been filed against drug manufacturers by individuals harmed by the opioid crisis and their families.
Holding Pharmaceuticals Accountable
Drugmakers, distributors, and pharmacies have had to fight numerous opioid lawsuits in recent years. Legal action filed by local, state, and federal governments alleges, among other wrongdoings:
- Misleading and aggressive marketing of opioid medications
- Defective design of opioid products
- Manufacturers failing to warn about addiction risks
- Drugmakers misrepresenting opioids as safer than other medications
- Pharmaceuticals flooding the market with opioids without establishing controls against misuse.
- Drugmakers deceiving the public and governments about the medications’ effectiveness and potential for abuse.
The Effects of Overprescribing Opioids
The blame for the opioid crisis does not only lie with manufacturers. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), 9.7 million people misused prescription pain relievers containing opioids in 2019. One major problem contributing to the opioid crisis is doctors prescribing unnecessary pain medication. According to HHS, a staggering one in three Medicare beneficiaries received an opioid prescription in 2016. As a result, the Medicare population may currently have the highest opioid use disorders compared to other demographic groups in the U.S.
How Much Opioid Medication Do Doctors Prescribe?
According to Kaiser Health News (KHN), a study conducted by researchers at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health revealed that doctors vastly overprescribe opioid medication, particularly after surgery. Moreover, the amounts prescribed by physicians often exceed guidelines established by various academic medical institutions. When examining common procedures, figures from the study showed that
- Coronary artery bypass patients on average received prescriptions exceeding 105 opioid medication pills
- Patients undergoing a lumpectomy for breast cancer received between 26 and 70 pills
- Some patients were prescribed more than 100 pills after knee surgery
The amounts of opioids given to patients were many times the amount some physician groups advise for relieving surgery or injury pain.
Overprescribing Can Result in Addiction
Unfortunately, overprescribing opioids can have tragic consequences. According to a recent study, six percent of patients receiving opioid medications after surgery become dependent on the substance. Rates of dependency did not differ significantly between patients who underwent major or minor surgeries. Patients suffering from other conditions, such as mental health issues, chronic pain, or substance abuse are more likely to become addicted to opioids.
Why Are Doctors Overprescribing Opioids?
According to a study published in Addiction, payments from pharmaceutical companies to doctors may increase prescriptions of opioids. Prescriptions of the two pain-relieving medications, oxycodone and hydrocodone, are particularly affected.
Incentives for Doctors
Under federal and state laws, kickback transactions between doctors and pharmaceutical companies are illegal. Pharmaceutical companies must not offer payment in return for doctors prescribing their drugs. However, drugmakers incentivize doctors in other ways, including:
- Paying doctors for speaking engagements involving the medications
- Paying for doctors’ conference attendance
- Engaging physicians for consulting work
- Sending reps to doctors to promote their drugs with samples
- Paying for physician’s meals and travel
- Paying for costs associated with continuing medical education
When powerful pharmaceutical companies help physicians develop their careers and pay for expenses, doctors may develop a conscious or unconscious bias towards their drugs. Moreover, physicians may prescribe certain medications in higher quantities, potentially leading to addiction issues in patients.
The Health Consequences of Opioid Misuse and Addiction
Taking strong pain relievers containing opioids can be crucial for providing comfort for those with acute and strong pain, for example, after a bone fracture or significant surgery. However, even when taken responsibly, opioids can have side effects, including:
- Drowsiness and brain fog
- Slowed breathing
Dependency and Addiction Issues
The real problem with opioids is the potential for dependency or moving on to illegal drugs such as heroin. Misuse of opioid medication can lead to devastating health consequences, including:
- Mental health problems
- Physical dependence
- Liver and kidney disease
- Heart infection
- Overdosing and death
Additionally, opioid use during pregnancy can severely harm an unborn baby and mother. Long-term opioid medication use is linked to birth defects, poor fetal growth, stillbirth, and neonatal abstinence syndrome.
You Could Have an Opioid Case
Drug addiction devastates whole communities in the U.S. and can wreak havoc on a person’s physical, emotional and financial health. However, if you lost a loved one in the opioid crisis or suffered an injury and financial losses, you could be entitled to damages. Our compassionate and dedicated lawyers can be here for you and help file a claim. We could help if you or a family member:
- Developed an opioid addiction
- Lost a loved one from opioid misuse
- Lost a home or job due to opioid addiction
- Incurred steep medical and rehab costs
- Suffered from a drug overdose
If you are affected, you might be entitled to damages for medical bills, income losses, pain and suffering, and more. You can potentially file:
A personal injury lawsuit – If you suffered an injury and financial damages due to opioid addiction.
A wrongful death lawsuit – If your loved one died due to opioid misuse.
Class-action or mass tort lawsuits – You may be able to join class-action litigation against manufacturers and other responsible parties.
Compensation You Could Receive
If you win your case, you could potentially receive a variety of damages, including:
- Medical expenses
- Counseling costs
- Rehab expenses
- Lost income
- Pain and suffering
In wrongful death lawsuits, close family members could receive the following damages and others:
- The costs for funeral and burial
- Lost income and benefits from the deceased
- Lost companionship
- Lost inheritance
Consider consulting with our personal injury attorneys to determine which damages you qualify for, as compensation can vary depending on your case.
We Fight Corporations Gambling With People’s Health
Many individuals currently suffer from the destructive physical and financial effects of opioid addiction but do not know where to turn or what to do in opioid litigation. Morgan & Morgan is here for you and your family. We offer free consultations to identify your legal options for getting what you deserve. We do not charge you a dime unless we successfully win your case and you receive damages. We can:
- Determine whether you or a loved one has an opioid case
- Identify those responsible for your suffering and losses
- Collect evidence to prove your opioid case and damages
- Build a comprehensive case against the liable corporation or another party
- Fight vigorously on your behalf for a fair settlement in or out-of-court
Profit-hungry companies should not get away scot-free after wrecking the health of individuals. If you are impacted by the opioid epidemic, you deserve compassionate attorneys that can give you the time and attention you deserve and stand up to powerful corporations. As America’s largest personal injury firm, Morgan & Morgan has the determination, resources, and expertise to fight hard for you. We have your back.