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Opioid Lawsuits: Can New Opioid Laws Stop The Opioid Crisis?

Last Updated: February 22, 2024

Reviewed by Dr. Ash Bhatt

A growing number of opioid lawsuits are arising against various pharmaceutical companies and wholesale distributors in response to the U.S. opioid epidemic. The lawsuits call for new opioid laws to be crafted to control the distribution, prescription, and use of them. Every year, thousands of individuals succumb to death because of overdose, opioid respiratory depression, and addiction. Read further to find out about the reasons why opioid lawsuits have increased, the different opioid lawsuits going on, and the future of similar lawsuits.

Reasons For Lawsuits Against Opioid Manufacturers

These medications are considered to be highly addictive pain-relief medication. Users can develop a dependency on them with prolonged use. This makes them take higher doses with a greater frequency which may result in an overdose on opioids leading to addiction or even death.
opioid lawsuit and justice

Following are some of the reasons why the distributors and manufacturers are being sued, resulting in opioid litigation:

  • Opioid abuse has created a staggering increase in drug overdose fatalities each year in the United States. The State and local governments spend millions of dollars on managing patients of overdose and addiction through rehab facilities. These lawsuits aim towards seeking reimbursement for all such government spending.
  • Wholesale distributors and manufacturers are believed to have violated the Federal Controlled Substances Act by not alerting authorities about the increase in demand for them as a result of an increase in the number of opioid prescriptions.
  • Doctors and pharmaceutical companies are also held responsible for allowing these meds in the black market, neglecting the opioid schedule, thereby increasing the usage, eventually leading to its addiction.
  • Gross negligence on the part of doctors to not adhere to legal and safe doses in the schedule has also contributed towards the growing cases of lawsuits by individuals and the government.

Lawsuits By State, Local Governments, And Individuals

The epidemic has led to a rise in the number of addiction and overdose cases; many of those cases were fatal. The State, local governments, and injured individuals continue to sue the manufacturers, pharmaceutical companies, and distributors for damages as described in this paper about the Epidemic. Some of these famous opioid lawsuits are mentioned below:

Florida Opioid Lawsuit

An opioid lawsuit was filed against some manufacturers and distributors by the Florida Attorney General. The defendants include companies such as Purdue Pharma L.P., Endo Pharmaceuticals, Cephalon, Inc., Insys Therapeutics, Inc., Allergan (formerly Actavis), and some others. This also includes Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc. which is a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson. The lawsuit was filed in May 2018 and is still under hearing. No settlement has yet been reached.

Oklahoma Opioid Lawsuit

The Opioid Lawsuit, Oklahoma basically includes the Johnson and Johnson opioid lawsuit and the Teva Opioid Lawsuit. The charges against Johnson & Johnson include misrepresenting the risk of addiction to doctors, manipulation in medical research, and buying of poppy-growing companies in Australia which supplied the raw materials for making their medicines. Johnson & Johnson is alleged to have assisted in the growing epidemic for which they have been sued to pay damages. Johnson & Johnson denies any responsibility regarding the epidemic.
The Teva Opioid Lawsuit alleged that Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, Ltd. had misled doctors and patients by marketing them as safe to be consumed even for regular aches and pains. The allegations further included the company’s failure to warn against the addictive qualities of their drugs which helped in the rise of the epidemic. A settlement of $85 million was approved by the Oklahoma judge against this lawsuit to be paid to the state for substance addiction treatment and support services.

Mckesson Opioid Lawsuit

A lawsuit was filed against Mckesson Corporation alleging that they were responsible for the distribution of a whopping 1.2 million doses of Hydrocodone and Oxycodone in the state of West Virginia from 2007 until 2012. Although Mckesson did not admit to any wrongdoing in this regard, they agreed to a settlement in which they paid $37 million to support various state endeavors for opioid addiction help including rehabilitation programs, mental health support, and job training.

The Future Of Opioid Lawsuits

The opioid epidemic has risen exponentially in the last few years as a result of the deceptive marketing of the pharmacy industry. These highly addictive painkillers are used to treat common aches and pains. Injured individuals spend thousands of dollars on drug detox and professional treatment for addiction. This calls for new opioid laws to be introduced to control this use of these medications. How far will these laws be effective in controlling the epidemic is yet to be assessed. Already, a number of laws and legislations exist that outline an opioid policy, but its effects have not yet been promising.
Wooden gavel and stethoscope on the table
According to this brief about the Opioid Abuse Prevention And Treatment Act of 2017, several grants and regulations have been added to create the legislation to control the use and misuse of them. This also includes a 7-day opioid law which limits the prescription of this medication for only seven days while some states even limit the initial prescription to 3 or 4 days. However, this is for first-time prescriptions after which doctors have the authority to override and refill a prescription.
This, along with the availability of such drugs in the black market, suggests that the epidemic will not curb in the near future. Consequently, lawsuits by injured individuals and the government will continue to rise unless strict measures are taken to control the epidemic.

Page Sources

  1. Ronald Hirsch, The Opioid Epidemic: It’s Time To Place Blame Where It Belongs, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6140023/
  2. Sean Riley, Opioid Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act of 2017 (HR 993, 115th Congress), https://scipol.duke.edu/content/opiod-abuse-prevention-and-treatment-act-2017-hr-993-115th-congress
  3. Harvard Health Letter, What New Opioid Laws Mean For Pain Relief, https://www.health.harvard.edu/pain/what-new-opioid-laws-mean-for-pain-relief

Published on: February 17th, 2024

Updated on: February 22nd, 2024

About Author

Peter J. Grinspoon, MD

Dr. Peter Grinspoon is an experienced physician with long-term clinical practice experience. As a former analgesic addict, Dr. Grinspoon knows precisely how important it is to provide patients with effective treatment and support. Medical writing for him is the way to communicate with people and inform them about their health.

Medically Reviewed by

Dr. Ash Bhatt

Throughout his professional life, Dr. Bhatt has been conferred with diplomate status by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, certifying him in both adult and child/adolescent psychiatry. His experiences in emergency rooms, frequently encountering patients with simultaneous health and addiction issues, directed his attention to these specific fields.


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