The opioid epidemic has taken hundreds of thousands of lives and devastated families and communities across the country. New York Attorney General Letitia James plans on holding manufacturers and distributors accountable.
James filed, on Thursday, the nation’s “most extensive lawsuit” against companies for their role in the opioid epidemic.
“We found that pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors engaged in years of deceptive marketing about the risks of opioids and failed to exercise their basic duty to report suspicious behavior, leading to the crisis we are living with today,” James said in a statement.
She said that as the defendants in the lawsuit grew richer, “New Yorkers’ health grew poorer and our state was left to foot the bill. The manufacturers and distributors of opioids are to blame for this crisis and it is past time they take responsibility.”
According to the Attorney General’s office, each day, more than 130 people in the United States, about nine of whom live in New York, die as a result of opioid-related overdoses:
“In 2017 alone, more than 3,200 New Yorkers died from opioid overdose. From 2000 to 2011, the number of prescriptions for opioid drugs produced by the manufacturers in this complaint more than quadrupled nationwide, despite no scientific basis for any significant increase in opioid treatment as medically necessary or appropriate. These prescriptions have proven to be an incredibly dangerous gateway to forms of illicit drugs – research shows that up to 80 percent of heroin users first became addicted as a result of exposure to prescription pills.”
The new lawsuit provides an extensive set of facts alleging that prescription drug distributors did not successfully detect and report diversion of opioids due to poorly designed, resourced and executed order monitoring programs. The lawsuit also claims that manufacturers implemented a common “playbook” to mislead the public about the safety, efficacy, and risks of their prescription opioids.
On Tuesday, Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter’s lawsuit, filed two years ago, resulted in opioid drugmakers agreeing to pay $270 million to fund addiction research and treatment in Oklahoma and legal fees.
“Opioid dependency and related overdoses are a public health crisis that must be tackled from every angle,” Joshua D. Lee, MD, MSc, an Associate Professor at the NYU School of Medicine and Director of the NYU Fellowship in Addiction Medicine, said in a statement.
“As we seek to find the best interventions for opioid use disorders, those who fueled this crisis, marketing useful but addictive drugs into the market without disclosing the risks, must be held responsible.”