Purdue Asks Companies for Proof of Harm in Opioid Litigation
Purdue Pharma has asked counties involved in opioid litigation against the popular drug manufacturer, claiming it allegedly causing the opioid epidemic, to offer specific details to back up their claims. They are arguing that the state and local governments filing lawsuits against them “have failed to respond to questions about which opioid prescriptions they claim shouldn’t have been written, what caused them to be written and how they caused harm,” according to the Wall Street Journal.
However, the counties have fired back that it should not necessary to provide the exact number of deaths or the exact number of excessive prescriptions that have been written in order to prove their case in the opioid litigation. It is already known widely that opioids were involved in more than 42,000 overdose deaths in 2016, the last year for which data was available, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They argued they do not have detailed prescription information surrounding the deaths or other opioid-related healthcare issues and say their claims “do not turn on proof that a specific drug caused harm to a specific individual,” according to the Wall Street Journal. It is apparent that this matter is a public health crisis in which drug manufacturers should take responsibility.
Separate litigation involving at least 433 lawsuits by U.S. cities and counties have been consolidated in a federal court in Cleveland, Ohio, under the direction of U.S. District Judge Polster, appointed by former President Bill Clinton. Polster answered the manufacturers’ request by ordering four Ohio cities and counties to identify 500 medically unnecessary prescriptions and 300 residents who became addicted or were harmed from opioid prescriptions, saying that the plaintiffs do not have to produce those details if they promise not to argue in court that specific prescriptions were to blame for alleged deaths and other harms. In other words, they cannot present specific cases if they do not intend to provide the details of these to the defendant. Polster said, instead, “they will have to rely solely on broad arguments that look at the entire scope of the opioid crisis in their regions.”
The opioid litigation claims against the largest drug makers including Purdue Pharma, Endo International, Johnson & Johnson and Allergan, remain ongoing. The plaintiffs have all alleged the misleading marketing tactics used by these companies is directly responsible for causing the epidemic. They have also alleged the drug makers downplayed the addictiveness of opioids, which also helped fuel the drug epidemic. Many of the municipalities are also suing distributors, physicians, and pharmacists, saying they did not do enough to stop suspicious, large quantities from being distributed to users.
The focus of litigation is mainly on correcting the damage that has been done and preventing further damage in the future. Many measures have already been put into place to reduce the number of addictive opioid prescriptions and to track misuse and illegal practices regarding opioids. Many doctors have already chosen to begin prescribing alternative medications without addictive properties more readily and to limit the number of pills prescribed if opioids are the best pain management option.