The Counties of Orange and Santa Barbara California have filed lawsuits against major pharmaceutical companies. The civil suits, brought on behalf of the entire state of California, allege that prescription drug makers are guilty of fraudulent advertising that contributes to the state’s, as well as the nation’s, problem with prescription drug addiction.
According to the Miami Herald, the complaints base their cause for damages on false advertising, public nuisance, and unfair competition. The five defendant corporations are as follows: Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Purdue Pharma, Actavis, Endo Health Solutions Inc., and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries’ Cephalon Inc.
The legal theory relied on by the plaintiffs has parallels to cases brought against tobacco companies in decades past. Essentially, the suits allege that public relations campaigns and advertising cast the products in a false light by downplaying the hazards associated with painkiller use in order to increase the overall sales of opiate based drugs.
The plaintiffs seek the power of the court to enjoin future marketing campaigns from airing and to order financial compensation for damages to individual patients and to public health in general.
Millions of Americans use the products involved at the heart of these lawsuits. In fact, the lawsuit describes the opioid class of medications as being the most prescribed nationwide. What was once rarely used has now become, in part by publicity generated by manufacturers, more widely used than blood pressure medications, anti-anxiety pills, or cholesterol drugs.
However, the habit forming characteristics can make them more dangerous than the problem they were originally prescribed to treat. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics illustrate the magnitude of the crisis. In 2010 alone, opioid painkillers claimed the lives of over 16,000 Americans. Deaths caused by cocaine and heroin combined fall short of that number.
Overdoses, both lethal and non-lethal, sap public resources and take up emergency room beds costing taxpayers large amounts annually. Additionally, increases in medical and insurance costs as a whole are also being attributed to the opioid misuse epidemic.
Plaintiffs point to past lawsuits as not being sufficient deterrents to the pharmaceutical industry. Both criminal and civil suits were brought in attempt to end the same conduct being presently alleged. Settlements were reached in an effort to curb overproduction of drugs, like Oxycontin, by establishing oversight procedures, but the issue persists. A part of the settlement required manufacturers to formally take responsibility for the inaccurate public display of their wares.
Plaintiffs say that the lawsuit cannot be simply about money, as past settlements were not effective. A settlement reached with the United States Department of Justice in recent years included a payment of 634 million dollars by drug makers. However, a culture of misrepresentation survived and must be eliminated according to plaintiffs.
If you or a loved one has been injured after being prescribed painkilling medications, please contact Fetterman and Associates and our team of experienced medical malpractice attorneys immediately at 561-845-2510 for a free legal consultation.
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