The United States’ War on Opioid Epidemic
The offensive is reminiscent of the war waged by US authorities against the tobacco industry in the 1990s. In the space of a few years, the number of lawsuits filed by states, municipalities and counties in the United States against laboratories that have manufactured and marketed "opioids" exploded.
Due to lax regulation, these very powerful anti-pain treatments, based on natural or synthetic opiates, have been prescribed for mild pain since the late 1990s – these have been administered to hundreds of thousands of Americans. The epidemic is responsible for the bulk of the 72,000 overdose deaths recorded last year. Its ravages are such that it is suspected of weighing on the life expectancy of Americans, which no longer progresses, unlike other developed countries.
Minimize the risks of dependence
To date, nearly 30 states and hundreds of municipalities and counties have filed lawsuits against laboratories, distributors and pharmacy networks that have marketed these painkillers. "There is almost a new prosecution every day, and I do not see when it will stop," Paul Hanly, a lawyer who has represented several local authorities, said a few months ago. The latest is Colorado, which accuses the Purdue laboratory of deliberately exaggerating the effectiveness of its OxyContin pain reliever and minimizing the risk of addiction and addiction to doctors.
The complaint alleges that representatives of the laboratory visited hundreds of times the same family doctor in Fort Collins, who became the most prolific prescriber of the state with more than 19,000 prescriptions of OxyContin.
A financial challenge
For these communities, the issue is primarily financial – they hope to force laboratories to participate in the management of the social consequences of an epidemic they fed, whose cost is estimated at $79 billion per year according to the Center for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC).
In some regions, such as Ohio, the epidemic is such that it poses a threat to the public finances of some small communities (in addition to Medicare and Medicaid health coverage, these support emergency and firefighters, as well as children of victims of overdoses, mortuary services etc.).
The Trump administration, which has supported most plaintiffs, is considering joining the prosecution because the subject is also political – since the beginning of the year, television commercials financed by candidates from both parties in the run-up to the mid-term legislative elections have mentioned the issue of opioids more than 50,000 times, compared with 70 four years ago, calculated the "Wall Street Journal".
In the complaints, the offending laboratories are almost always the same: Purdue Pharmaceuticals, Johnson & Johnson, Allergan, Endo and Teva. Refusing the comparison with tobacco, they willingly take shelter behind the green light granted by the federal regulator (FDA) – it’s a point to be misused by patients, or even accuse websites that sell drugs illicitly.
Some are also partially protected: the Purdue laboratory pled guilty in 2007 to an agreement with the Justice Department on OxyContin, and paid $ 635 million to stop the prosecution.