It’s impossible to watch the news these days without hearing about the opioid crisis. People are dying from opioid overdoses at the rate of over 150 per day. And nobody is safe. We’re seeing an entirely new crop of addicts. These are people who, years ago, would never have tried any drug let alone an illicit one.
A lot of people start out being prescribed the drug by their doctor. They could have been in a car accident or just dealing with chronic pain. Months or years later, they’re prescribed so many pills a month, it’s terrifying.
When doctors realize their patients have become addicted to the drug, they tend to cut their medication off. This causes people to look for opiates on the street, buying them from drug dealers.
Because the street value of the drug is so high, people can’t afford their habit. They turn to heroin, a much cheaper drug. From that point, their lives quickly spiral out of control. Many end up homeless, unemployed and cut off from family and friends. They may try rehab a few times, but sadly, too many never make it out alive.
Finally, in 2017, communities got fed up with seeing their friends and family members die. Cities and towns all over the country started filing lawsuits against the manufacturers of opioids. By the time 46 lawsuits had been filed, the courts ordered the cases consolidated into Multi-District Litigation.
Who is Being Sued?
About a dozen opioid manufacturers have been named in the MDL. The 3 biggest manufacturers were named in the lawsuit. These companies, known as the “Big Three”, are:
- Cardinal Health
- McKesson Corporation
These companies were responsible for distributing over 80% of all opiates through 2017.
Initially, the plaintiffs were mostly just cities and towns across the country who wanted to hole Big Pharma accountable. Once the cases were consolidated, there have been hundreds of others joining the litigation.
Some of these newer plaintiffs include individuals, consumers, hospitals and third-party providers. All of these players have a stake in how the litigation turns out.
The general allegations are that these manufacturers and distributors of opioids used improper marketing and distribution of the drug. This behavior is what led to the opioid epidemic we’re fighting now.
What are the Legal Claims?
The reason the opioid MDL was filed was in response to the opioid epidemic. After seeing thousands of people die from opiate and heroin overdoses, city and local governments were outraged. They were watching active members of their communities fall prey to addiction like never before.
It’s not enough to allege that the pharmaceutical companies were responsible for the opioid epidemic. The plaintiffs had to make specific allegations against these drug manufacturers and distributors. Some of these allegations include:
- The manufacturers overstated the benefits of opiates and downplayed the risks
- They aggressively marketed and distributed the drugs without any concern for the patients
- Distributors failed to monitor, detect, investigate, refuse or report suspicious orders of opioids
As a result of these actions, patients and consumers ended up hooked on a very dangerous drug. The pharmaceutical industry had a duty to make sure their drugs didn’t find their way into illicit channels. They had to have known something was going on. The number of opiates being distributed was remarkably high. There’s no way they could have thought these were all for legitimate prescriptions.
What was really going on was these distributors were sending thousands of pills to doctors every month. The doctors were basically prescribing the pills to anyone willing to pay the right price. Then these “patients” were selling the pills on the street for very high prices. People who couldn’t get the medication from their doctors started buying them from the pill dealers.
It’s very hard to believe that Big Pharma wasn’t aware of what was going on. They couldn’t have thought all of these pills were for legitimate prescriptions. Knowing what was being reported in the news about the opioid epidemic, they should have known better.
What’s the Future of this Opioid MDL?
The exact schedule for the opioid MDL is not yet set. The courts have laid out the early timetable for settlement conferences and discovery. But there hasn’t been an update as to whether or not Big Pharma will be held liable for the opioid victims.
Knowing what we now know about how many drugs were distributed over the last ten or fifteen years, it’s hard to imagine Big Pharma being found liable.
If you’ve lost a loved one due to an opioid overdose, call and speak with an experienced mass tort lawyer today. The consultation is free and you pay nothing until you settle your case.