The Trial Lawyer Fall 2017 - Page 70

Drug Companies Created The Opioid Epidemic — And Trial Lawyers Are The Only Hope We Have By Farron Cousins For the last 18 months, the issue of healthcare and the behavior of the entire healthcare industry has been making headlines. Whether it’s Congress trying to overhaul the health insurance system, or greedy Pharma executives price gouging consumers, Americans are being fed a steady stream of news regarding the healthcare industry. And that’s exactly what Big Pharma wants — the news might not always be flattering, but as long as the public is focused on price gouging, then they aren’t talking about the opioid crisis that Pharma created — a crisis that is claiming the lives of tens of thousands of American citizens every single year. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control, 91 Americans die every day from overdosing on opioids, in the form o f both prescription drugs and drugs like heroin. But now opioid painkillers are becoming one of America’s people killers. In 2015, there were more than 52,000 deaths in the United States attributed to overdoses on opioids. About two-thirds of those deaths came from legal, prescription drugs. That’s more people than died from auto accidents 68 x The Trial Lawyer or firearms in the United States. And though it may not seem like these deaths were Big Pharma’s fault — after all, they can’t control whether or not a person overdoses on their medication — when you start to dig into the issue a little deeper, it becomes quite clear that drug company executives knew this was going to happen, but they did nothing because they knew they’d get rich off this crisis. There is a direct correlation between the increase in opioid prescriptions and the increase in overdose deaths in the United States, and that’s a correlation that drug company executives have known about for a long time. To understand Big Pharma’s role in this crisis, we have to go back to the 1990s when these opioid-based painkillers were released. At the time, the FDA, doctors groups, and even drug company sales reps were concerned about the addictive quality of opioid painkillers. They understood that patients could easily become addicted to painkillers and that these pills were very easy for patients to overdose on. But rather than demand that drug companies carry out extensive testing, these groups were more than happy to accept drug companies’ assurances that their painkillers were less addictive than other opioids. That’s all it took. That one lie from drug companies — a lie that continued for more than a decade — is what led hundreds of thousands of Americans to become addicted to opioid painkillers. Their doctors told them that these pills weren’t addictive because the drug companies told the doctors that they weren’t addictive.