Opioid litigation against major pharmaceutical companies heats up

| Sep 16, 2019 | Pharmaceutical Liability |

In a landmark case late last month, a court in Oklahoma found that Johnson & Johnson, through its subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals, had created a public nuisance by flooding the market with oxycodone, fentanyl and other opioids.

Johnson & Johnson had fanned the flames of the opioid crisis, the court ruled, with “false, misleading and dangerous marketing campaigns” that “caused exponentially increasing rates of addiction, overdose deaths” and infants born exposed to the substances. It ordered the company to pay $572 million toward opioid recovery in Oklahoma. Johnson & Johnson plans to appeal.

Earlier this year, OxyContin maker Purdue Pharmaceuticals settled with Oklahoma for $270 million, while Teva Pharmaceuticals agreed to pay $85 million. That adds up to nearly a billion dollars Oklahoma will use to address the crisis.

Now, Purdue Pharmaceuticals is pursuing a universal settlement with other states, municipalities and tribes, even as it prepares for bankruptcy. Under the terms of the bankruptcy, Purdue would dissolve and then create a new company to sell OxyContin. The settlement proposes the company pay up to $12 billion, along with donating drugs to treat addiction and overdoses.

Moreover, lawsuits by over 2,000 governments around the country have been combined into a single case, with an eye toward a global settlement of the plaintiffs’ claims. That case is currently in settlement negotiations, as well.

Drug makers apparently flooded the market with opioids

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, Rutherford County, Tennessee, was unusually flooded with opioids. During the period 2006 through 2012, there were enough prescription opioids in that county for each and every person to receive 86.9 days of the medication each year.

Across the nation, the number of days’ worth of opioids made available to each person rose significantly between 2006 and 2012. For example, in 2006 there were enough prescription opioids that each New Yorker could have slightly less than 10 doses per year. By 2012, that had risen to around 17 annual doses per resident.

Many states, municipalities and tribes that are suing opioid manufacturers allege that the companies violated the Controlled Substances Act and the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act.

If you have lost a loved one to overdose, it is possible that pharmaceutical manufacturers played a role in making these drugs far too easy to obtain. Many doctors were apparently misled about the addiction potential of these medications. You may wish to discuss your situation with an attorney.