Across the county drug companies are gaining favorable court outcomes while victims of the opioid epidemic still suffer.
A California judge has ruled in favor of top drug manufacturers as local governments seek billions of dollars to cover their costs from the nation’s opioid epidemic. Judge Peter Wilson of Orange County issued a ruling stating that the governments hadn’t adequately proven that the pharmaceutical companies used deceptive marketing to increase opioid usage and public nuisance.
“There is simply no evidence to show that the rise in prescriptions was not the result of the medically appropriate provision of pain medications to patients in need… Any adverse downstream consequences flowing from medically appropriate prescriptions cannot constitute an actionable public nuisance.” Wilson wrote in his over 40 page ruling.
Los Angeles, Orange and Santa Clara counties, and the city of Oakland argued that both doctors and patients were misled by the pharmaceutical companies. Companies had “downplay[ed] the risks of addictions, overdoses, deaths and other health complications while overstating the benefits for long-term health conditions.”
Plaintiffs have planned to appeal the court’s decision to put an end to reckless corporate practices from opioid manufacturers.
Johnson and Johnson was one of the companies included in the ruling. J&J has also won a recent appeal made in Oklahoma. On Wednesday Nov. 10th, U.S.news reported that “a previous court ruling that ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay Oklahoma $465 million for the company’s role in the opioid epidemic was tossed out by the state’s highest court on Tuesday.” The Oklahoma Supreme Court came to this conclusion in a 5-1 vote.
The court rejected the state’s argument that J&J violated public nuisance laws. “Oklahoma public nuisance law does not extend to the manufacturing, marketing and selling of prescription opioids,” the judges wrote in Tuesday’s majority opinion. The judges also wrote that “opioid manufacturers could not be held ‘perpetually liable’ for their products,” after referencing J&J’s response that it had not promoted its products in recent years and had sold off one of its product lines in 2015.
U.S.news reports that “It’s not clear how the decision to overturn the 2019 ruling will affect similar cases nationwide, since most public nuisance laws are state-specific.” Unfortunately, courts seem to be handing victories to drug companies.
While these court wins are taking place, a study released on Nov 8th stated that “Fatal opioid overdoses nearly doubled in recent years among Massachusetts workers, with the construction, farming and fishing industries among the hardest hit sectors, according to an updated study from the state Department of Public Health.”
With the opioid epidemic still raging on, it is discouraging to see courts ruling in favor of drug manufacturers. The fight is far from over, for now the future remains uncertain.