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California Communities Sue Opioid Marketers for Addiction Crisis

A group of large communities in California have partnered together in an effort to hold opioid marketers and manufacturers accountable for their potential role in creating the opioid crisis. Between 1997 and 2017, there were more than 20 billion prescription opioid doses in the form of pills, patches, and lozenges. California has a law which holds companies responsible for misleading marketing. Plaintiff lawyer Fidelma Fitzpatrick, representing the communities stated, "Without an avalanche of prescription opioids, there wouldn't be an opioid epidemic." Pharmaceutical companies accused of overly aggressive marketing tactics include: Johnson & Johnson, Teva Pharmaceutical, Endo International, and AbbVie Inc.'s Allergan. Defense attorneys for these companies are attempting to prove that regulatory oversight was provided and the drugs were marketed according to that guidance. In addition, plaintiffs are being challenged to provide specific examples of how their prescriptions resulted in community deaths.

There is speculation that this lawsuit will hasten opioid companies to settle lawsuits nationwide. There are settlement offerings "on the table" that have yet to be approved. Johnson & Johnson, along with three distributors, have proposed a $26 billion settlement. McKinsey & Co., who served as a marketing consultant to Purdue Pharma and Johnson & Johnson, has agreed to pay $641 million to resolve state claims. Plaintiff lawyer Ms. Fitzpatrick said, "This was about money." One example of this was an email discovered with a Teva employee urging other employees to "Keep on cranking out those coupons and driving Rx growth." We cannot forget the human losses associated with opioid abuse with over 500,000 people in the U.S. being lost to opioids. However, we must also remember that opioids do have their place in healthcare. Teva legally markets opioids for legal and necessary pain management, such as late stage cancer.

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