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Big Pharma and the Opioid Epidemic: What You Should Know

This week, former CEO of Insys Therapeutics, Inc. Michael Babich pleaded guilty for taking part in a nationwide kickback scheme to bribe doctors into prescribing a powerful opioid medication to their patients. According to news reports, the prosecutors allege that from 2012 to 2015, Babich and his co-defendants – which include former Insys chairman John Kappor – had paid doctors bribes in exchange for prescribing Subsys, a fentanyl spray used by cancer patients for managing severe pain. Fentanyl is an opioid that is 100 times stronger than morphine.

The trial is an example of the court system putting pressure on Big Pharma over the opioid epidemic. Cities, counties, and states are beginning to hold manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies accountable for playing a part in the crisis. According to Forbes, the opioid lawsuits may become the most significant civil litigation settlement agreement in U.S. history.

The Opioid Epidemic: By the Numbers

In the past decade, opioid abuse has increased drastically. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that on average 130 people die from an opioid overdose every day in the United States. Misuse to prescription pain relievers, heroin, and synthetic opioids has caused a national crisis that has had a ripple effect on both social and economic welfare.

Here in Pennsylvania, there is evidence that opioids have taken an enormous toll. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse , there 2,235 opioid-related overdoses in our state in 2016 – a number that has steadily increased since 2010. Heroin overdoses have jumped from 131 in 2010 to 926 in 2016. Overdoes from synthetic opioids such as fentanyl have a more dramatic increase – from 98 in 2010 to 1,309 in 2016.

Drug Manufacturers and the Opioid Crisis

The epidemic’s cause may have come straight from the pharmaceutical companies, who had reassured the medical community that these painkillers were not addictive. Armed with this information, healthcare providers began to prescribe them at higher rates. Unfortunately, this has led to an increase in misuse, addiction, and overdoses.

According to the NIH:

  • Approximately 21 to 29 percent of those prescribed opioids misuse the drug with 8 to 12 percent developing a disorder.
  • Between 4 and 6 percent then transitions to heroin after misusing opioids. In fact, about 80 percent of those who use heroin first abused opioids.
  • Opioid overuse has been steadily increasing since 2015, with more than 33,000 Americans overdosing.

Not only has opioid abuse destroyed lives, but has put an economic strain on the nation. The CDC estimates that the total financial burden on opioid abuse alone in the U.S. is $78.5 billion a year, including the costs of healthcare, loss of productivity, treatment for addiction, and criminal justice involvement.

How Fellerman & Ciarimboli is Fighting the Opioid Epidemic

The attorneys at Fellerman & Ciarimboli are currently representing several townships and counties in Pennsylvania in lawsuits against drug manufacturers. The suits allege the drug makers failed to safely and responsibly market their opioids to patients throughout the state. Also, the lawsuits are holding drug distributors accountable, stating they breached their legal duty to monitor, identify, and report suspicious activity in the size and frequency of opioid shipments to drug providers across the state.

To learn more about our opioid lawsuits or to get your township involved in the lawsuits, we urge you to contact our offices in Philadelphia and Northeastern Pennsylvania.

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With more than 40 years of combined experience, the personal injury attorneys at Fellerman & Ciarimboli strive to provide the best service to clients in Philadelphia, Northeast Pennsylvania, and throughout the Keystone State.

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