Holding Drug Makers and Distributors Accountable for the Opioid Epidemic

Federal government action to stem the opioid crisis has been largely ineffective to date. Some states, tired of shouldering opioid abuse-related hospital bills and emergency response costs, have decided to act on their own.

The state of New Jersey, for example, has filed a lawsuit against Janssen Pharmaceuticals, accusing the company of misleading patients about the risks of its drugs. According to The New York Times, the lawsuit states: “Janssen joined the wave of opioid manufacturers working to persuade health care providers and patients — including the elderly and opioid-naïve — that pain had been widely and improperly under-treated, and that opioid pain medications were the answer.”

Opioid manufacturers are no strangers to litigation – eleven states have filed separate lawsuits against Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of the popular opioid OxyContin. However, Florida is taking a different tactic: The state is suing Walgreens and CVS for their roles in the epidemic. According to AP News, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi accused the drugstore chains of failing to stop “suspicious orders of opioids” and of having “dispensed unreasonable quantities of opioids.” In a small Tampa-area town with a population of 12,000, one Walgreens store distributed 2.2 million opioid tablets in one month – an average of more than 180 tablets per person – the lawsuit claims. Walgreens has not commented on the pending lawsuit, per company policy.

Florida and New Jersey are not alone. State attorneys general across the country are launching investigations and preparing lawsuits against the makers and distributors of opioids.

Sources: The New York Times, November 13, 2018; AP News, November 17, 2018.