As of Tuesday, July 18th, Delray is the first city in Florida to sue Big Pharma for intensifying the prescription opioid epidemic.
Big Suit for Big Pharma
In the year 2016, Delray recorded 690 drug overdoses, an enormous 250% increase since 2015. Already this year the city has documented 414 overdoses- 37 of which were fatal. In addition to the emotional trauma this epidemic has evoked, city officials claim each OD is costing the city an average of $2,000, which puts the city in a concerning state of financial distress.
The leaders and citizens of Delray are demanding the restoration of their economic state and accountability from those who are at fault. That’s why Tuesday, July 18th, the Delray Beach Commission officially set out to file suit against large opioid producers. Some of the larger well-known manufacturers that should expect a lawsuit include Purdue Pharma and McKesson Corp.
In response to the filing, Mayor Cary Glickstein stated that the state receives, “virtually no help from our federal government and little from our state” and later added, “We’re right for turning our eyes to those who are known conspirators in this ongoing atrocity.”
Why the Pharma?
Representatives of Delray Beach say the companies downplayed the potential danger of prescription opioids and even overprescribed drugs like Vicodin and OxyContin which violates state consumer protection, negligence, and enrichment laws.
Delray has become a major hub for the addiction recovery industry, but with little success, it has also become known as the “relapse capital.” Citizens and officials are concerned that any potential for success is being hindered by pharmaceutical companies and their negligence.
Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd, a national firm holding an office in Boca Raton, will be representing the city in the lawsuit against multiple pharmaceuticals. The firm claims that these companies downplayed the addictive nature of the drugs, burdening addiction and overdose on the state, county, and city governments. The lawsuit will not cost the state any amount as the firm is fronting the money but could net millions in damages and claims.
The Potential Turnout
The probability for success in this legal endeavor is uncertain as the opioid epidemic and Delray’s attempt at suing is an alarming parallel to the tobacco-industry lawsuits. The settlements of the tobacco industry did little to actually prevent tobacco use and mainly went to public health programs and anti-smoking campaigns. What makes the pharmaceutical lawsuit increasingly challenging is that with tobacco, consumers were using the product as directed and getting sick. With opioids, pharmaceutical companies claim persons to be misusing the drug and not following instructions as prescribed to them. It is difficult to blame the companies, especially from a legal standpoint, for individual misuse as opposed to false or lack of information from the producer.
Recent lawsuits across the nation have taken place including:
- Two counties in California
- Four counties in New York
- Cherokee nation
These suits were filed against their pharmaceutical companies but failed where courts largely decided drug addiction and misuse was an individual’s negligence and not at the hands of the producers. Sam Quinones, author of Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic said in an interview with The Atlantic that, “What you’re getting now is a lot more legal minds across the country focusing on this, and trying to figure out how to pay these huge bills…everyone is groping for a legal theory that will work in court.”
Although there is significant evidence that Pharmaceutical Companies engage in activities that could potentially lead to or exacerbate the epidemic, there has been little success in gaining legal accountability. Experts on the topic claim there are too many external parties that could hold potential blame. Doctors who overprescribe, scientists who fail to accurately communicate the potential danger and level of addictiveness, pharmacies, and distributors, and even the FDA.
McKesson, one of the companies being sued by Delray, entered a $150 million settlement this past January with the Justice Department over suspicious orders of prescription opioids from patients to doctors. The settlement resulted in the FDA approving new and stronger opioids, and no demands on distribution restrictions. Anti-pharma lobbyists say there are a number of responsible parties who could have tried harder to make regulations more strict.
The Unresolved Epidemic
Representatives, State officials, and citizens, not just in the state of Florida but nationwide, are hopeful that the pursuit of legal justice will turn out in their favor. Yet even with the massive amounts of evidence and support, there is no definite outcome for this lawsuit. Deep in the opioid epidemic, it’s crucial to focus efforts on controlling the epidemic from an internal standpoint before it causes even more emotional and financial turmoil. Starting and supporting regulatory programs, monitoring prescriptions and properly disposing of unused prescriptions are all beneficial to controlling the misuse of opioids. Beyond holding Big Pharma accountable and looking for someone to blame, there needs to be effort put forth by the state and community to promote safe prescription use and effective addiction treatment plans.
Seeking Treatment for Alcoholism or Addiction
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