Find a Top Opioid Lawsuit Lawyer and Get Justice
In the wake of a wave of lawsuits filed by individuals against manufacturers of highly addictive opioids, dozens of cities, counties, and states have filed lawsuits seeking reimbursement for costs associated with the opioid epidemic. Drug overdoses cause more than 55,000 deaths annually, with 60 percent of these fatalities being caused by opioids. The devastating toll on the lives of victims and the spiraling public health expenditures associated with the opioid abuse epidemic continue to grow at an exponential rate. If you’ve been a part of these alarming statistics, you may be able to get compensation from an opioid lawsuit. Call the experienced attorneys at Parker Waichman LLP today for a free consultation to learn about your legal rights.
What Are Opioids?
Opioids are painkillers derived from opium. Opioid medications at the center of the opioid crisis include:
- Oxycodone (OxyContin, Oxecta, Roxicodone)
OxyContin, developed by Purdue Pharma and marketed by Abbot Laboratories, has been at the center of many of the lawsuits brought by government officials. While most oxycodone-based painkillers only provide pain relief for four to six hours, OxyContin uses a controlled-release formula, so its effects can last up to 12 hours.
How Many People Have Died From Opioids in the U.S.?
More than 300,000 Americans have lost their lives to opioid overdoses since the late 1990s. Some public health experts have predicted that opioids will kill another 500,000 people in the next decade. Statistical evidence suggests that the problem is growing at an exponential rate. The amount of opioids sold in the U.S. has quadrupled since the 1990s, as has the number of opioid fatalities. The New York Times reported that the number of opioid deaths in America in 2016 probably exceeded 59,000, which would amount to the largest annual increase in U.S. history.
Is Opioid Use an Epidemic?
Yes. It’s easy to see how large the problem is from sales statistics. While opioid-type prescription drugs were originally used for cancer, sales of the drugs exploded as they were promoted for use by patients with conditions that cause chronic long-term pain like arthritis. This expanded use led to OxyContin sales exploding from $48 million in 1996 to nearly $1.1 billion just four years later. Retail sales of the pain medication continued to grow until OxyContin was the most widely prescribed Schedule II narcotic in the U.S.
Financial Costs of the Opioid Epidemic
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have estimated that the annual cost of opioid addiction and abuse is approximately $78.4 billion. The agency further broke down the staggering price tag to governments, communities, and municipalities. These costs include:
- Criminal justice proceedings: $7.6 billion
- Lost productivity: $42 billion
- Substance abuse treatment: $2.8 billion
- Health insurance: $26.1 billion
Through opioid litigation, law firms representing governments across the country seek to recoup the costs associated with this health-care crisis from drug manufacturers.
Are Pharmaceutical Companies Responsible for the Opioid Epidemic?
In many cases, product liability laws would seem to indicate that drug makers are responsible for the opioid crisis.
Product liability can refer to harm caused by defective drugs or misrepresentations to doctors and patients regarding the effectiveness or adverse side effects of medications. Liability issues arise with respect to:
- Drugs with dangerous side effects
- Improper marketing
- Defective manufacturing
Drugs With Dangerous Side Effects
When drugs are manufactured according to specifications and without adulteration, they still can have dangerous side effects that cause serious injury or death. When companies fail to adequately test their drugs or ignore adverse incident reports, patients can be harmed by these side effects, which include a high level of addictiveness.
Many claims brought by an opioid lawsuit lawyer against pharmaceutical manufacturers allege harm caused by the inclusion or omission of instructions, warnings, and recommendations involving the drug. This type of claim often involves drug companies failing to give adequate warnings regarding side effects or providing inadequate instructions for proper and safe use of a drug. It can also include drug companies promoting drugs for “off-label use,” or a use not approved by the FDA. In the context of a lawsuit involving opioid overdoses, lawsuits allege that opioid manufacturers failed to warn patients and their physicians of the highly addictive nature of the drugs and the risks associated with prolonged use of the drugs to treat conditions like back pain.
This type of defective drug claim applies when problems occur in the manufacturing process or the drugs become tainted.
Lawsuits Filed by Government Entities Against Opioid Manufacturers
Our law firm represents individuals harmed by these drugs, and we also represent government agencies in lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies that manufacture and distribute opioids. These lawsuits filed by cities, counties, and states seek reimbursement for the enormous costs of the opioid public health epidemic. Drug companies generate tens of billions of dollars in profits from the sale of opioids while financially strained public entities are burdened with the immense damages generated by the opioid epidemic.
Actions Pursued by State and Local Governments Against Opioid Makers
Government entities that have filed opioid lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies have alleged illegal conduct in multiple forms:
- Promulgating misleading medical literature that indicated that opioids pose minimal risk of addiction
- Failing to detect, report or stop orders that should have set off red flags because they were unusually large or otherwise suspicious
There are many examples of pharmaceutical companies burying their heads in the sand when receiving suspicious orders. Jim Geldhof, a 40-year DEA veteran and whistleblower, cites the case of Kermit, West Virginia, with a population of 392 people, as an example. A pharmacy in the tiny town ordered 9 million pills over a two-year period. Companies are required to report suspicious drug orders, but often, they have not.
Legal claims asserted in complaints filed by public officials against pharmaceutical companies include:
- Corrupt practices under state laws
- Federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act violations
- Public nuisance
Multi-District Litigation Handling Opioid Overdose and Addiction Cases
Litigation against pharmaceutical companies that profited from suspicious orders of opioid drugs is ongoing, and a significant number of government cases involving violations of opioid laws have been consolidated into a multi-district litigation (MDL). When an MDL is litigated, a single court/judge oversees all pretrial matters, such as discovery disputes, while attempting to guide the parties toward a settlement. If the case cannot be settled, trials will occur in the original courts where the cases were filed. An MDL offers a couple of important benefits. It prevents the risk of inconsistent rulings on similar issues in different courts and produces the efficient handling of multiple cases in a single court that can reduce the cost of litigation.
Prospects for Opioid Lawsuits
Government entities have pursued these claims in the form of parens patriae lawsuits. This type of claim involves state entities pursuing lawsuits based on the economic and physical well-being of residents. This model is like that used by government entities to pursue financial reimbursement for the astronomical health-care costs associated with tobacco products. In the wake of this success, a few states filed similar lawsuits against manufacturers of lead paint and firearms.
Legal claims being pursued by filing an opioid lawsuit have asserted a range of legal arguments, such as fraud, engaging in an abnormally dangerous activity, public nuisance, negligent marketing, unjust enrichment, and negligent entrustment.
Unjust Enrichment and Restitution
This type of claim is based on benefit (such as financial gain) to Party A at the expense of Party B, while Party B receives no form of consideration despite an expectation of reciprocation.
These claims typically have focused on marketing efforts targeting vulnerable populations without appropriate monitoring of distribution at the retail level. For instance, Purdue Pharma settled for $10 million with West Virginia based on claims of negligent marketing; 26 other states and the District of Columbia then followed this example, alleging that the company promoted OxyContin for off-label use and failed to adequately warn of addiction risks. West Virginia OxyContin prescriptions amounted to 433 per resident during one period because of aggressive marketing aimed at a population with a high level of chronic pain.
This legal claim involves an unreasonable interference with rights held in common by the public. Three factors are considered when evaluating whether interference is unreasonable:
- Whether the acts interfere with safety, comfort, public health, convenience or peace
- Whether the acts violate an administrative regulation, statute or ordinance
- Whether the acts are of an ongoing nature or will cause a permanent impact on a public right
All three of these factors are present in the opioid epidemic. Widespread addiction and related public health issues are clearly part of the opioid crisis. Allegations related to deceptive marketing practices and promotion of off-label use of the drug to treat back pain and arthritis meet the second criteria. The final factor is satisfied by the loss of life and billions in public health, law enforcement, criminal justice, and incarceration costs.
Which States Are Suing Drug Companies?
Every state except one, Nebraska, has filed at least one lawsuit against an opioid manufacturer.
What Is the Opioid Settlement?
There’s no one single opioid settlement. A variety of different settlements have been discussed and offered. However, one of the largest to date has been the Purdue Pharma settlement, which could be worth as much as $12 billion. Another sizable settlement involves Mallinckrodt, a U.K.-based manufacturer of generic opioid medications, which agreed in early 2020 to a $1.6 billion deal involving 47 states.
Other major opioid settlements to date include:
- Purdue Pharma, $24 Million Settlement (2015): This large pharmaceutical company is the manufacturer of OxyContin. The drug company settled a lawsuit with the State of Kentucky for $24 million based on misleading marketing regarding the addictiveness of the prescription pain killers.
- Cardinal Health Inc., $44 Million Settlement (2016): The company agreed to pay $44 million to federal regulators related to allegations of failing to report suspicious opioid orders by pharmacies in Florida, Maryland, and New York.
- Mallinckrodt PLC, $35 Million Settlement (2017): This manufacturer of oxycodone settled a regulatory action for $35 million regarding failing to report or monitor suspicious orders of opioids.
- Cardinal Health Inc., $20 Million Settlement (2017): This distributor of hydrocodone and oxycodone pills along with other distributors provided 780 million of the two types of pills to people in West Virginia over a six-year period, which amounts to 433 pills per state resident. During this period, the state experienced 1,728 opioid overdoses.
- McKesson Corporation, $150 Million Settlement (2017): The company, which is one of the largest distributors of pharmaceuticals in the U.S., paid a $150 million civil penalty for failure to report orders of hydrocodone and oxycodone, which should have raised red flags based on the size, pattern, and frequency of the orders.
- Mallinckrodt PLC, $30 Million Settlement (2019): The company settled lawsuits brought by two Ohio counties that alleged the manufacturer contributed to the nationwide opioid crisis in those communities. Mallinckrodt agreed to pay Cuyahoga and Summit counties $24 million and provide $6 million in generic drugs and therapies to help people addicted to opioids get clean.
- Costco Wholesale, $11.75 Million Settlement (2017): The wholesale store paid $11.75 million to settle claims that the chain’s pharmacies improperly filled prescriptions for painkillers under the Controlled Substances Act.
Meanwhile, in 2019, Johnson & Johnson was ordered to pay $465 million for its role in fueling the opioid crisis. This was the first verdict achieved in a state court against an opioid manufacturer.
What Drug Companies Are Being Sued?
Numerous companies are being sued in opioid cases pending in courts across the country, including:
- Allergan PLC
- AmerisourceBergen Drug Corp.
- Cardinal Health Inc.
- Cephalon Inc.
- Endo Pharmaceuticals
- Janssen Pharmaceuticals
- Johnson & Johnson
- Mallinckrodt LLC
- McKesson Corp.
- Purdue Pharma
- Teva Pharmaceuticals
- Watson Laboratories Inc.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Opioid Claims
How Widespread Is the Litigation Against Pharmaceutical Drug-Makers Based on Opioid Overdoses and Addiction?
Lawsuits against makers of opioids are widespread, and an opioid lawsuit attorney will typically handle two types:
- Legal claims by public entities based on the societal costs of opioid addiction and overdoses
- Personal injury lawsuits filed by individuals seeking compensation for damages caused by opioid addiction and/or overdoses
Scores of states, cities, and counties across the nation have already filed lawsuits against opioid manufacturers. Some complaints filed against the drug-makers indicate that the pharmaceutical companies lobbied politicians and targeted physicians with marketing to artificially increase the volume of opioids prescribed to patients and that the companies willfully allowed the drugs to be a commodity on the black market.
Which Drug Companies Make Opioids?
Some of the most common drug manufacturers and defendants in opioid abuse lawsuits include:
- McKesson Corporation
- Purdue Pharma
- Endo International
- Watson Pharmaceuticals
- Janssen Pharmaceuticals (subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson)
- Cardinal Health
- Teva Pharmaceutical
- Allergan (formerly Actavis)
Where Are Most Opioids Manufactured?
Most of the drug companies that make opioids are based in the United States. Manufacturing occurs domestically and in manufacturing facilities owned by these companies in other parts of the world.
What Are Some of the Most Common Types of Claims in Lawsuits Brought by Public Officials Against Opioid Distributors?
These complaints frequently allege that drug companies acted in violation of the federal Controlled Substances Act because the companies neglected to alert the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration of questionable opioid purchases that included unusually large or frequent orders. These complaints also typically allege that the pharmaceutical companies overstated the benefits of this class of painkillers and that the defendants were aware that the drugs were being excessively prescribed. Despite this knowledge, the defendants neglected to warn doctors that the drugs were highly addictive and that the dose should be strictly limited. The lawsuits also contend that opioid distributors unlawfully marketed the drugs for off-label long-term use for conditions like arthritis and back pain. These lax opioid prescription practices promoted addiction that progressed for many users to abuse of heroin and other illicit narcotics.
What Are Some of the Specific Damages Being Sought in These Lawsuits?
Government officials are seeking reimbursement of billions of dollars in expenses related to the opioid addiction epidemic, such as:
- Medicaid and related public health expenditures stemming from addiction treatment, such as antidotes to treat overdoses, hospitalization, and the costs of inappropriately prescribed opioids
- Expenses associated with the construction and operation of treatment facilities
- Reimbursement of criminal justice and law enforcement expenses
- Costs related to increased medical, emergency, and law enforcement personnel to cope with the opioid epidemic
- Emergency medical transportation expenses
- Costs of repair of property damage
- Increased expenses for incarceration related to drug offenses
Are There Responsible Parties Other Than Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Distributors Being Sued by Public Entities Related to the Opioid Crisis?
Yes: Some lawsuits brought by government entities also allege that “pill mills” and physicians exploited patients by getting them hooked on these powerful prescription drugs, which cost cities, counties, and states billions of dollars in medical, law enforcement, judicial, and penal expenses.
Why Have Some Media Sources Drawn an Analogy Between the Tobacco Industry and the Opioid Crisis?
The analogy has been drawn between these two public health epidemics because the tobacco litigation brought by financially strapped public entities might serve as a partial roadmap for opioid lawsuits. The tobacco industry was sued by 46 states and six other jurisdictions that requested that the companies assume the financial burden of paying for public expenses associated with lung cancer and other smoking-related illnesses. In what amounted to the largest civil litigation settlement in U.S. history, tobacco companies agreed to make perpetual payments to states as well as contribute to anti-smoking campaigns and public health programs.
Can You Sue a Drug Company?
Yes, and the experienced defective drug attorneys at Parker Waichman have the knowledge and litigation resources to effectively represent both government entities and individuals against large pharmaceutical companies. Our law firm strives to provide our clients with exemplary legal services based on tenacious advocacy and the pursuit of the fullest recovery.
How Long Do You Have to Sue a Drug Company?
Statutes of limitations vary from state to state, so to find out how long you have to sue a drug company, you’ll need to consult with an experienced lawyer. If you’re thinking of filing an opioid lawsuit, a lawyer with our firm can calculate the deadline for your case to ensure that your claim is filed in a timely fashion.
How Much Does a Lawyer Get in a Lawsuit?
Legal fees can vary widely, but at Parker Waichman, we get nothing out of your pocket: We only get paid from a percentage of your settlement or jury award. If we are not successful in litigating your claim and securing compensation for you, we don’t get anything.
Do You Need a Lawyer to File a Lawsuit?
It’s not actually required to have a lawyer in order to file a lawsuit, but the process of litigation can be exceedingly complex, so it’s best left to a professional. Your chances of success improve greatly when you turn to an experienced law firm to file an opioid lawsuit.
Call Now for a
The experienced attorneys at Parker Waichman are currently reviewing cases against pharmaceutical companies that manufactured or distributed opioids, and we’d be glad to help you with your legal claim. We are committed to holding the drug-makers and distributors that pushed their highly addictive opioids accountable for the social and economic costs of their conduct, and when you trust your case to Parker Waichman, you’ll be getting the help of tenacious lawyers who will fight hard for you. But you don’t need to take our word for it: We’ve earned numerous accolades from our peers, such as a 9.8 out of 10 from AVVO and a Martindale-Hubbell rating of “AV Preeminent,” which are testaments to our sterling reputation.
Take advantage of our experience and let our talented opioid lawyers go to bat for you today. Call 1-800-YOUR-LAWYER (1-800-968-7529) or fill out our online form to schedule a free case evaluation.
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