The opioid crisis has ravaged the country since 2010, and the court system is finally catching up. The Midwest was particularly hard-hit, and trial lawyers from across the country have filed lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies in an effort to hold opioid manufacturers and distributors responsible.
Pharmaceutical Court Cases Hold Big Pharma Responsible for Opioid Crisis
The overuse of prescription-strength painkillers, known as opioids, has become a public health crisis. While it’s easy to blame people who overuse and abuse prescription-strength drugs, drug companies and medical professionals must take responsibility for their role in downplaying the risks of opioid drugs and aggressively marketing them to doctors, hospitals, pharmacists, and pain clinics.
In a sad but all-too-common story, people who are injured receive a prescription for opioid pain medications. When the prescription runs out, they try to buy pills from friends, “doctor hop” to get new prescriptions, or turn to street vendors.
But addiction to opioid painkillers is just the tip of the iceberg. When the drugs are gone, patients who have become addicted turn to crime to get money to buy more pills, or resort to illegal drugs like heroin - a cheaper and more potent substitute - to feed their addiction.
Finally, courts are holding the manufacturers of these dangerous drugs - who engaged in deceptive and aggressive manufacturing campaigns - accountable.
Opioid Lawsuit Targets Johnson & Johnson
Starting in the 1990’s, Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiaries developed the raw materials needed to manufacture opioid drugs. The company used the raw material to produce its own opioid painkillers and also sold raw material to other opioid manufacturers. They spent millions of dollars marketing opioids to doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and hospitals, all the while downplaying the risk of addiction.
Johnson & Johnson aggressively marketed drugs like oxycodone, hydrocodone, fentanyl, and naloxone, ultimately becoming one of the largest manufacturers and distributors of opioid drugs in the world. Their marketing materials overstated the effectiveness of the drugs for treating pain while understating the risk of addiction. The drugs were marketed to treat chronic conditions like headaches, low back pain, and fibromyalgia, even though evidence revealed that opioids were not effective at treating these types of pain.
Finally, their reckless business practices have caught up with them. In 2019 an Oklahoma judge ruled that Johnson & Johnson helped fuel the opioid crisis and ordered the company to pay $572 million. Since then, courts across the country have ordered the pharmaceutical manufacturer to pay millions of dollars in compensation for its role in fueling the opioid crisis. Today, there are more than 2,000 opioid lawsuits pending nationwide.
Purdue Pharma Takes Responsibility for Its Role in Fueling the Opioid Crisis
Like Johnson & Johnson, Purdue Pharma saw sales of OxyContin and other prescription-strength opioids skyrocket during the 1990s and early 2000s. The company promoted these drugs by paying enormous bonuses to sales reps and hosted all-expense-paid pain-management conferences for doctors, nurses, and pharmacists. These conferences were intended to influence them to prescribe opioid painkillers like Fentanyl, codeine, Vicodin, and Oxycontin - all manufactured by Purdue.
OxyContin in particular was marketed as having a low risk of addiction. Yet investigations have revealed that, for years, Purdue Pharma knew that doctors were engaging in suspicious prescribing practices but did nothing.
In 2007 company executives admitting to misleading doctors, patients, and the FDA about the potential for addiction and was ordered to pay over $600 million in fines.
Today, Purdue Pharma is facing hundreds of lawsuits filed by individuals, cities, and states across the country. These lawsuits claim that Purdue Pharma, Johnson & Johnson, and other manufacturers and distributors of opioids were major causes of the opioid crisis by misleading medical professionals, patients, and the government.
In October 2019 Purdue Pharma agreed to settle more than 2,000 lawsuits for $12 billion. Purdue will continue to sell opioids, but will use the profits to fund a trust that will help local governments combat the effects of the opioid crisis. Claims against Johnson & Johnson and other pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors remain in a massive Multi-District Litigation, or MDL case that is pending in Cleveland before Judge Dan Polster of the Northern District Court of Ohio.
Massive Lawsuit in Cleveland Against Pharmaceutical Companies
Cleveland has become a focal point in opioid liability lawsuits against big pharma as an MDL lawsuit is playing out before U.S. District Court Judge Dan Polster. In 2017, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) consolidated almost 1,500 cases here. The MDL is intended to streamline pretrial procedures for the consolidated cases and, unless a settlement is reached, send them back to the courts in which they originated.
Cleveland was selected because Ohio has been hit particularly hard by the opioid crisis, because of Judge Polster’s reputation in the legal community, and because Cleveland is centrally-located among the defendants, who are headquarters in New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.
Robenalt Law—Helping to Hold Big Pharma Responsible for the Opioid Crisis
Robenalt Law is currently reviewing claims against manufacturers and distributors of opioid painkillers. If you or a loved one was affected by the opioid crisis you may be eligible for compensation. An experienced product liability lawyer can analyze whether you are eligible and help you obtain compensation.
To learn more about pharmaceutical court cases and lawsuits against big pharma, contact Robenalt Law today to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case.
Tom Robenalt started his litigation career at a large firm in Cleveland where he defended pharmaceutical companies accused of making and selling harmful products. For the past 25 years, he has used that experience to help victims and the families of those injured as a result of faulty or harmful products.
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