State suit targets opioid manufacturers—and feds could benefit

Norman, Okla.— This college town next door to the state capital is host this summer to opening a case with huge implications for the American public—and for federal, state and local governments.

Here, in this courthouse, the state of Oklahoma is suing opioid drug manufacturer Johnson & Johnson—arguing the company helped create the opioid epidemic plaguing this mostly rural state, as well as the rest of the country. 

The case—opening May 28—could add leverage in the fight against opioid abuse—and a win might lead to savings for governments and the public. Manufacturers could be forced to pay more toward the epidemic’s costs—and cut marketing, slowing the increase in addicts. Since the Department of Veterans Affairs is the U.S.’s largest single healthcare provider—and the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program is the country’s largest employer-sponsored health insurance—such developments could lead to savings for feds.

Feds are not just potential beneficiaries from the case. Feds also did research that contextualizes and supports it—much of the evidence on the opioid epidemic was developed at federal agencies by federal employees. For instance, the federal Centers for Disease Control’s latest tally shows opioids implicated in more than 47,000 annual national overdose deaths, with statistics available to a more granular level. 

A White House Council on Economic Advisors analysis notes each opioid-related case can cost the economy millions—from massive healthcare expenses to $14-plus million per fatality. Finally, the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Drug Abuse calculates opioid deaths rose more than 500 percent since 2000—correlating with aggressive marketing of opioid drugs.

Armed with federal—and state—figures like these, indicating the soaring costs of opioid abuse rising alongside the marketing of certain opioid drugs in recent decades, it’s no surprise that lawsuits against drugmakers are finally gaining traction. Such suits could lead to stronger curbs on the use and misuse of such drugs, saving lives and money. More than 2,000 tort cases are now in the pipeline against opioid drug manufacturers—this state’s is just the first to go to trial. 

Reader comments

Wed, Jul 3, 2019 Nancy USA

All this is doing is creating a mess for individuals that have chronic pain as they are having trouble getting their pain meds. There are lots of people that need them due to chronic pain and surgery has already been done 7 times now. Make it so the abusers can't get them not the individuals who really need them. Every time I hear this subject it makes me mad, as it just making it harder for people like my husband who needs them to just get by without such intense pain all day every day to be able to function to some degree.

Thu, Jun 13, 2019

Imagine what would happen if drug manufacturers decided it was no longer profitable to make drugs in the U.S.

Mon, Jun 10, 2019 Sam USA

Opioid use increased 500% since 2000. Could the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars be the cause for the 500% increase since 2000 and the 2 million Veterans who have become disabled for life from those wars??? How many of the OD cases are among former GI's who are in severe pain and taking more and more medication to quell their pain????

Mon, Jun 10, 2019 Sam USA

Following up on the Logic that the drug companies are responsible _____Millions of Americans are alcoholics, caused by purchasing and excessively abusing beer, wine and liquor. If the drug companies are responsible for the abuse ___ then using that same logic ___ so would all companies who manufacture alcoholic beverages be responsible ___ and all makers of motor vehicles would be responsible for motor vehicle injuries and deaths.

Tue, May 28, 2019 Peter Kansas

What I mean and is obvious from all the news stories on this is that the savings would come to all insurance companies and the feds because the drug companies that made these drugs will have to pay for more of the drug treatment many addicts now need. So instead of medicare or FEHB paying for it, the drug companies that recklessly overmarketed their otherwise ok medicine will have to pay for the percentage of patients that got sick and addicted due in part to their lies about their products being very safe to use in almost any pain situation. They weren't safe, and a certain fraction of people who use them were likely to get addicted so you should only use them in a very bad pain situation, and then for most people only short term. It's like a lot of this came from a month's supply given to people with a toothache because the doctor and patient alike thought these pills were safe, based on the drug makers huge and lying claims. So you can see I hope why they shoul dhave to pay for part of the costs of ruined lives afterward. This isn't like a bad batch of paint. It's a lot more important and damaging than that.

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Edward A. Zurndorfer Certified Financial Planner
Mike Causey Columnist
Tom Fox VP for Leadership and Innovation, Partnership for Public Service
Mathew B. Tully Legal Analyst

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