John Russell Indianapolis Business Journal Staff for www.theindianalawyer.comNearly a dozen Indiana cities and counties have filed lawsuits in recent days against opioid makers and distributors, claiming the companies have flooded their communities with the addictive painkillers and engaged in deceptive marketing campaigns that helped lead to a growing crisis.The lawsuits, filed in U.S. District Court in Indianapolis, represent a growing effort to take on the powerful opioid industry. Many of the lawsuits are nearly identical, claiming the manufacturers aggressively pushed highly addictive, dangerous opioids, and falsely represented to doctors that patients would only rarely succumb to drug addiction.The complaints also say the companies aggressively advertised to and persuaded doctors to prescribe highly addictive painkillers, and “turned patients into drug addicts for their own corporate profit.”Plaintiffs include Fort Wayne, Noblesville, Greenwood, Terre Haute, New Castle, Chandler and Atlanta, as well as Harrison County, Vigo County and Jennings County.More will likely be filed in coming days, said Manuel Herceg, an attorney with Taft, Stettinius & Hollister LLP in Indianapolis, which is leading a consortium of about a half-dozen law firms engaged in the effort.Plaintiffs in many of the latest suits include opioid makers Purdue Pharma, Teva Pharmaceuticals and Jannsen Pharmaceuticals, as well as distributors Cardinal Health, McKesson and AmerisourceBergen. Stamford, Connecticut-based Purdue Pharma—which produces OxyContin and has no affiliation to Purdue University—is facing dozens of similar lawsuits. The companies have denied any wrongdoing.When asked why the suits were filed at nearly the same time, Herceg said: “We’ve received information from our clients and filed accordingly.”He said the suits eventually would be consolidated in a multi-district litigation effort in U.S. District Court in Cleveland, before Judge Dan Polster.That effort will include lawsuits from other states, including Ohio and Kentucky, he said. He declined to predict how many suits eventually would be filed.Many of the suits claim the industry knowingly fueled a black market in addictive medicines that led to overdoses and put a financial stress on community services.Other law firms outside the consortium have filed similar suits in recent days, include Cohen & Malad LLP, which in November sued opioid makers and distributors on behalf of the city of Indianapolis, blaming them for a “dramatic increase in the use of prescription opioid pain medications” by using deceptive marketing tactics and through their “failure to identify, report, and stop suspicious orders of those medications.”The city of Kokomo, in its lawsuit, stated that between 2011 and 2015, the number of non-fatal emergency department visits due to opioid overdoses in Howard County increased by more than 61 percent. Between 2015 and 2017, calls for service in Kokomo coded “overdose in progress” increased by 134 percent.“This incredible harm to not just the victims of opioid addiction, but the communities in which those individuals live, stems directly from the Defendants’ intentional choice to pump opioids into Plaintiff’s Community in violation of state and federal law,” the suit stated.Pointing a finger at the industry, the lawsuit further stated: “Despite the clear evidence before their eyes—that the number of opioids being sent into communities like City of Kokomo could not be explained or justified by any conceivable medical need, but could only be explained by a flourishing and rapidly expanding black market for opioids — these wholesale distributors continued to push their substances into the community, willingly and knowingly becoming participants in the black market they were fueling.”The suits also claim that Indiana has been especially hard hit by the opioid epidemic. The state ranks ninth in the country for its opioid prescription rate per capita, and opioid overdose rates have more than doubled in the past three years.Nationally, dozens of states, cities and counties — including Ohio, Mississippi, Orange County in California, and the Washington cities of Seattle, Everett and Tacoma — have sued the pharmaceutical companies.The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that in 2015, drug overdoses killed more than 52,000 Americans. Most involved prescription opioids such as OxyContin or Vicodin or related illicit drugs such as heroin and fentanyl. People with addictions often switch among the drugs.Healthcare Distribution Alliance, an industry group representing distributors, has said such lawsuits are misguided. The alliance is a national trade association representing distributors, including McKesson, Cardinal and AmerisourceBergen. It said its members are “deeply engaged in the issue and are taking our own steps to be part of the solution — but we aren’t willing to be scapegoats.”FacebookTwitterCopy LinkEmail
Huffington Post 24 October 2016Family First Comment: This is a great read. From an expert in addiction treatment – “legalising a drug increases consumption thereby increasing the number of people who develop a drug problem, and that leads to more people seeking treatment. Capitalism should tell me this is a great idea. Morality and humanity tell me otherwise.”Call me crazy. As someone in the business of providing treatment, you’d think I’d want nothing more than to see an influx of business. Legalizing a drug increases consumption thereby increasing the number of people who develop a drug problem, and that leads to more people seeking treatment. Capitalism should tell me this is a great idea. Morality and humanity tell me otherwise.Now, I’ve written on marijuana legalization before. The barrage of hate that I received might stop most people from doing it again. But I just cannot sit idly by while this issue continues to float around this nation’s great states, jeopardizing public health and our children’s futures.Hear me on this people: in many respects, I could be considered monetarily motivated to want marijuana legalized! I work for a treatment center that treats addiction to this and other drugs. But my conscience and compassion for people in the depths of addiction prohibit it.The argument of the pro-pot crowd is that marijuana is harmless, that it’s just a plant and is safer than alcohol. Unfortunately, there are too many holes in this argument, as anyone who’s been paying attention knows.True, marijuana is made from a plant. While we’re at it, let’s keep in mind that Hemlock, of which the ingestion of small doses can easily result in respiratory collapse and death, is also a plant. But back on topic, a recent study found that the level of THC in marijuana, or tetrahydrocannabinol (marijuana’s main psychoactive ingredient) rose from about 4 percent in 1995 to about 12 percent in 2014. Another study found those levels rose more significantly, from 10 percent to 30 percent. As the lead researcher in the former study said, “smoking marijuana with high doses of THC may involve a higher risk of negative health effects, such as psychosis or panic attacks.”As several experts have pointed out before, this is not your father’s weed. Indeed a 2014 study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that marijuana causes heart attacks and artery disease, even among the young. Other studies have shown that marijuana use can permanently impair brain development, problem solving, concentration, motivation, and memory. Teens who use marijuana are more likely to engage in delinquent and dangerous behavior, and experience increased risk of schizophrenia and depression, including being three times more likely to have suicidal thoughts. Marijuana-using teens are also more likely to have multiple sexual partners and engage in unsafe sex.So even if you smoked weed when you were young, you need to acknowledge that we’re talking about a vastly different drug here and have learned a great deal more about its short and long-term effects. With this, there is no debate.So why else am I opposed to the legalization of marijuana? The Rand Corporation concluded that under legalization, the price of the drug would fall substantially, thereby further increasing consumption. Increased drug use leads to greater societal costs including greater absenteeism and less productivity in our workforce. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) estimates that abuse of tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drugs incurs more than $700 billion annually in costs related to crime, lost work productivity and health care. Employees who test positive for marijuana had 55 percent more industrial accidents and 85 percent more injuries and they had absenteeism rates 75 percent higher than those who tested negative.Legalized weed creates greater access, more abuse, and greater costs to society. As I said before, those of us in the business of treating addiction might take this as news that our business will be booming. Sadly, it already is and I can’t bear to see it get exponentially worse with legalization of marijuana. I mean, does this country really need another legal intoxicant?There are an estimated 23 million Americans who need treatment for problems related to drugs or alcohol, but only about 2.5 million people receive it in any given year. This is what we call the treatment gap. So to be clear, I already have my hands full trying to reach the over 20 million people in our country who need but don’t pursue addiction treatment. I don’t need a boom in business with the legalization of marijuana and, in my opinion, the costs are just too high.Dr. Kevin Sabet, former Senior Advisor for the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) and co-founder of Project SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana), recognized that the marijuana market seems like an attractive target for taxation, and many have compared recent campaigns to legalize it to tactics used by Big Tobacco. One research firm estimated that the marijuana industry is worth roughly $10 billion a year. But these taxes will do little to offset the cost to society. Says Dr. Sabet, “Legal alcohol serves as a good example: The $8 billion in tax revenue generated from that widely used drug does little to offset the nearly $200 billion in social costs attributed to its use.”And if you still assert that legalizing marijuana for adults is their right, you need only look at two examples of this backfiring amongst our youth. In the 1970s, Alaska legalized marijuana only to recriminalize it in 1990 after Alaskan teen marijuana use jumped to twice the national average. And pot use tripled among young adults in the Netherlands after a policy shift made it essentially legal.Expanding on some of Dr. Sabet’s words, the legalization of marijuana would lead to a commercialization that glamorizes its use and furthers its social acceptance. High profits might make aggressive marketing worthwhile for sellers (read: big corporations), with addiction simply the price of doing business, but take it from someone in the treatment field: we do not need more access, more justification, or more incentive for people to become addicted to a drug.The risks far outweigh the reward for you being able to legally smoke that joint.http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/read-this-if-youre-still-on-the-fence-about-the-legalization_us_580e5b2ce4b0f8715789fefb?Keep up with family issues in NZ. Receive our weekly emails direct to your Inbox.