Cities Allege That Generic Drug Makers Helped Fuel Opioid Epidemic

Large brand name drug manufacturers often are blamed for spurring the opioid crisis, but findings from a review of internal documents from several retail and pharmaceutical corporations suggest that generic drug manufacturers also helped to accelerate the epidemic. For example, a Walgreens pharmacy in Port Richey, Florida, was ordering 3,271 bottles of oxycodone a month in a town with a population of 2,831, flooding the market with opioid pills.

The number of pills alarmed a pharmaceutical company employee tasked with reviewing special orders, who wrote in a January 2011 email, “I don’t know how they can even house this many bottles to be honest.” However, the company continued to ship outsized orders to the pharmacy.

The emails were obtained as part of a lawsuit filed in an Ohio federal court by lawyers representing municipalities and towns affected by the opioid epidemic. The documents detail how a variety of corporations set the stage for and fueled the opioid epidemic over the last 20 years.

This massive, consolidated lawsuit includes more than 1,900 cities, counties, Native American tribes and other groups who are seeking monetary compensation from these companies to combat the opioid epidemic.

Plaintiffs contend that, by ignoring and violating laws that required companies to monitor and report suspicious orders, the companies created a “public nuisance” that evolved into a public health crisis involving neonatal intensive care, foster care, emergency services, detox and rehabilitation programs, and the criminal justice system.

Despite claims from the plaintiffs, generic drug manufacturers contend that since they do not market their opioids, they should not be penalized for selling versions of prescriptions approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Source: The New York Times, July 19, 2019.