Meet the new big bad guy in town: The prescription drug industry. Let’s just call them “Big Pharma”. They are stepping into the shoes of the previous big bad guy: Big Tobacco. In fact, Big Pharma has used the Big Tobacco playbook to rake in billions of dollars in profits off the backs of addicted “customers” they hooked on their products through cunning advertising and lobbying schemes.
The product in question? Opioids. Opioids are the new Tobacco, only worse. Opioids include prescription painkillers like oxycodone, synthetics like fentanyl, and opium derivatives like heroin. Using Big Tobacco’s old tricks, plus some new ones of their own, opioid manufacturers have created a nationwide epidemic of opioid addiction.
But let’s go back a bit. Once upon a time doctors were reluctant to treat chronic pain with opioids. Opioid prescriptions were for last-stage cancer pain management and short-term pain control, for example, for patients suffering temporary post-operative pain. Prescribing such addictive medicine for chronic, long-term pain was just not done. The risk of creating addicts was simply unacceptable.
That was then and this is now. Between then and now Big Pharma convinced doctors to over-prescribe opioids. How did they do it? Big Pharma’s silver-tongued reps wooed the docs, relentlessly flooding their offices with ads and “scientific” reports asserting that long term use of opioids was easily monitored and safe. The smooth talkers underplayed the addiction risks. They often targeted primary care physicians, who had only minimal knowledge of the addictive powers of these drugs. The reps sold an easy solution to chronic pain: “Have a patient with chronic arthritis? No problem. Give her OxyContin.” The gullible docs bought in. Patient happy, doctor happy, all was good.
Except it wasn’t. When the chronic-pain patients became chronic addicts, and they could no longer get their doctors to satisfy their ever increasing addictive needs, they turned to the black market for “Oxy” (street name for Oxycodone). But the price of Oxy on the street soared as docs got wise to the addiction epidemic and started limiting prescriptions. The solution for many addicts then became a cheap alternative: heroin, another opioid.
Big Pharma, like Big Tobacco, knew exactly what they were doing. They deliberately created addicts to their dangerous products to line their pockets with record profits. But as the profits piled up, so did the bodies. To the tune of 100 opioid deaths per day in the USA.
So meet the new boss (Pharma), same as the old boss (Tobacco). It’s a story of greed, profits and cover-ups on one side of the equation, and sickness, suffering and death on the other.
Ok, now we understand what Big Pharm did wrong. All this explains why addicts and the families of addicts killed by overdoses might want to sue Big Pharma. But why are counties suing Big Pharma?
Glad you asked. They are suing for the same reason they sued Big Tobacco in the 90’s: Public health crises like those created by tobacco or opioid addiction burden the counties and county tax payers with huge treatment costs. The cost of treating cancer and emphysema, the by-products of tobacco addiction, bled county Medicaid coffers dry. In the case of opioid addictions, counties are stuck with the increased costs of County health services, drug court proceedings, naloxone training, addiction rehabilitation programs, methadone treatment, police overtime, and jails overflowing with addicts. In sum, counties and municipalities are spending millions of dollars trying to mop up the public mess that Big Pharma’s greed left in its ugly wake.
So far in New York, Sullivan, Seneca, Broome, Dutchess, Erie and Orange counties have commenced lawsuits against Big Pharma. Counties all over the country are following suit. I’m all for it. This is what good ol’ civil justice is all about: Making wrongdoers compensate victims for the harm they have caused. New York counties and their taxpayers have all been harmed by Big Pharma greed. The day of reckoning is nigh.
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