Several states across the U.S. have seen an increasing spike in opioid drug use over the past decade and now at least one local government has decided to take legal action against the manufacturers of opioids associated with increased use in their community. Orange County in New York has filed a lawsuit against both Purdue Pharma and Johnson & Johnson, along with four specified doctors and four other manufacturers, who have written the pain killer prescriptions in abundance to the point the county claims the medications are being prescribed unnecessarily. The trend of many doctors writing prescriptions of the targeted drugs may be about to change, especially regarding Oxycontin and Opana. The county is seeking damage recovery for the added expense associated with the multiple overdoses and increased number of emergency room visits that have largely been due to using the drugs in excess of the suggested dosage or illegally.
Among the other defendants named in the suit are Endo International and Teva Pharmaceuticals Industries. The case was filed in the New York state court system in Orange County, which is a southeastern county of nearly 400,000 residents. The county is claiming that the manufacturers used deceptive marketing tactics to encourage doctors to write the prescriptions for a wide variety of pain-causing health problems when the drugs were actually developed for those in serious need of pain relief, such as cancer patients. Oxycontin in particular is a common pain medication for individuals who have various forms of cancer, but now the drug is being regularly prescribed for other pain issues to the point that it is readily available on the black market as well.
This problem is not specific to only Orange County in New York, as emergency rooms across the entire United States are seeing this spike in opioid-related treatment cases. The legal action may just be the tip of the iceberg if Orange County is successful in prosecuting this civil suit against the pharmaceutical industry focused on recovering tax dollars that would have never been used if the medications were prescribed for a narrow list of certain medical issues. Generalized use of these stronger forms of pain killers could have also been lessened if the doctors wrote prescriptions for more moderate forms of the drug. Chief among the moderate forms is hydrocodone, often referred to as Lortab, which is commonly written by doctors for pain symptoms associated with a wide variety of illnesses. Death rates due to overdoses of hydrocodone are not as high as Oxycontin or Opana, but can still create treatment issues when taken is a larger concentration than the recommended dosage.
Endo and Teva have issued no public response to the lawsuit, but Johnson & Johnson along with Purdue Pharma did make an official comment regarding the claims of the Orange County government. Johnson & Johnson stated the charges are completely “unfounded” while Purdue Pharma’s press release said that the company is concerned about the opioid problem around the nation and they are “committed to working collaboratively to find a solution” for the increasing phenomena. It appears that the lawsuit is not only directed at finding a collaborative solution, but is currently focused on recovery of tax coffers that have been needlessly spent in the criminal court system regarding prosecutions of illegal drug users as well as treating those who have overdosed or providing burial expenses for those who actually die from using the high-powered opioid concoctions that are manufactured and distributed through the medical system.
At the heart of the legal wrangling will be evaluation of the marketing plan to minimize discussion of the negative side of overuse, while instead encouraging doctors to write more prescriptions by claiming the use of the drug is much safer than what the reality holds based on the high number of deaths and emergency treatments necessary during the past five years following overuse of the opioids.
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