Archive for Opioid crisis

The $50 Billion Question

The $50 Billion Question: Are the Right People Steering the Decisions of How States Spend Their Money Awarded from the Opioid Crisis Lawsuit? The opioid crisis has had devastating effects on communities across the United States, resulting in thousands of deaths and immeasurable suffering. In response to this public health emergency, numerous states have filed lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies, seeking to hold them accountable for their role in fueling the crisis. As these legal battles culminate in substantial settlements, with some reaching as high as $50 billion, the question arises: Are the right people steering the decisions of how states spend this money?

The opioid crisis has strained public resources, overwhelmed healthcare systems, and left families shattered. The money obtained from opioid crisis lawsuits could provide much-needed relief and support to communities affected by this epidemic. However, ensuring that these funds are used wisely and effectively is essential for addressing the underlying issues and providing support to those in need.

Here are some considerations to examine whether the right people are steering the decisions on how to spend these funds:

  1. Transparency and Accountability: One key aspect of ensuring that the funds are used appropriately is transparency and accountability in the decision-making process. State governments must involve relevant stakeholders, including public health experts, community leaders, and representatives from affected communities, to ensure that the funds are allocated responsibly and for the intended purposes.
  2. Evidence-Based Solutions: Effective allocation of funds requires evidence-based strategies that target the root causes of the opioid crisis. Investing in prevention, treatment, recovery services, and harm reduction measures has proven effective in combating opioid addiction. Decision-makers must prioritize initiatives backed by data and research to maximize the impact of the funds.
  3. Community Involvement: Communities that have borne the brunt of the opioid crisis must have a voice in how the money is spent. Engaging with affected communities helps ensure that the solutions devised are relevant, culturally sensitive, and meet the specific needs of those impacted.
  4. Prevention and Education: Allocating funds to prevention and education programs can play a crucial role in reducing future opioid-related harm. Focusing on education and raising awareness about the dangers of opioids, proper pain management, and safe disposal of prescription drugs can help prevent addiction before it starts.
  5. Treatment and Recovery Services: Investing in comprehensive treatment and recovery services is vital for individuals struggling with opioid addiction. Accessible and affordable treatment options can save lives and improve the chances of successful recovery.
  6. Addressing Social Determinants: The opioid crisis is often linked to underlying social determinants, such as poverty, unemployment, and lack of access to healthcare. Allocating funds to address these factors can help tackle the crisis at its roots.
  7. Guarding Against Misuse: Preventing the misallocation or diversion of funds is essential to ensure that they genuinely benefit those affected by the opioid crisis. Establishing oversight mechanisms and independent audits can help guard against misuse.
  8. Long-Term Sustainability: Addressing the opioid crisis requires long-term solutions. Decision-makers must plan for the sustained use of the funds to support ongoing efforts in battling opioid addiction and its consequences.

In conclusion, the $50 billion question of whether the right people are steering the decisions on how to spend the money awarded from the opioid crisis lawsuit is of paramount importance. Effective allocation of these funds can be a turning point in the fight against the opioid epidemic, providing support, healing, and hope to affected communities. Transparency, community involvement, evidence-based solutions, and a focus on prevention, treatment, and addressing social determinants are all critical aspects of ensuring that these funds are used wisely and effectively. By directing these resources toward comprehensive strategies and solutions, states have the opportunity to make a meaningful impact on the lives of those affected by the opioid crisis and to work toward a brighter and healthier future for their communities.

Washington Counties Must Step up if They Want Funds to Combat Opioids

The Washington State Attorney General and a Skagit County Commissioner have written an editorial in which they state that Washington has the opportunity to finally do something about the opioid crisis – but all the counties in the state need to sign on to the agreement if they want all the funds they were supposed to get.

Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson and Skagit County Commissioner Lisa Janicki wrote the editorial for the Seattle Times, stating that the state might not receive the full amount of funds promised from a settlement that resulted from a lawsuit against the Big Three opioid distributors by Ferguson’s office. They note that to get all of the money, all Washington counties and every city with a population over 10,000 people have to agree to the settlement by September 23. If they do, then the state will receive hundreds of millions of dollars starting in December.

Ferguson and Janicki say that the funds will be used for more treatment, as well as more support for both those affected by the opioid epidemic and for the first responders who have to handle things like overdose cases. The money can also go toward developing new programs and developing ways to prevent youth from trying opioids. Ferguson and Janicki are quick to point out this includes combating fentanyl and the problems it’s been causing in the state.

Back in November 2021, Ferguson’s office decided to reject a national settlement offered by three opioid manufacturers and instead take the three to court. This resulted in a resolution-in-principle that gives the state not only part of the settlement but also an additional $46 million. Ferguson’s office tried a similar tactic regarding a bankruptcy plan from Purdue and also got more money for the state to use toward tackling the opioid epidemic.

In the editorial, Ferguson and Janicki acknowledge that money won’t bring back the lives lost to opioids, including that of Janicki’s own son. But the money can help prevent more lives from being lost. Washington counties and cities are urged to sign on to the resolution by the deadline.

Tennessee State Attorney General Sues Walgreens Over Opioids

The attorney general’s office in Tennessee has filed a lawsuit against Walgreens, claiming the drugstore chain did nothing to stop the abuse of opioids it dispensed, which in turn added to the prescription painkiller addiction crisis in the state. According to the lawsuit, Walgreen’s lack of controls and detection violated the state’s consumer protection act.

The suit alleges that for 14 years, Walgreens pharmacies dispensed oxycodone and hydrocodone pills without doing anything to stop the potential abuse of these medications. The pharmacies were said to have dispensed over 1.1 billion of these pills, with some locations dispensing so many pills that every single person in the town would have had to be taking the medications for the numbers to make sense.

Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III claimed in a statement that this was not accidental and that Walgreens ignored clear signs that the drugs were potentially being abused. Walgreens is accused of not giving its pharmacists training in spotting signs of medication abuse and that the locations in Tennessee were actually dispensing opioids to people from several states. In turn, Walgreens released a statement noting that they had not made the pills or given them to prescribing doctors, who were, at the heart of the opioid crisis.

In one example, according to the lawsuit, one doctor in one Tennessee city prescribed over 100,000 pills in less than a year, with about 20 percent of the prescriptions written for patients from outside Tennessee, and Walgreens filled all of these without any alarm bells going off. Walgreens is also accused of filling opioid prescriptions written for children, including toddlers over 2 years old, and prescriptions for dosages well above the normal maximum dose.

The lawsuit is just one of thousands filed by governments and other agencies as a result of an addiction and overdose crisis that has killed over half a million Americans over the past 20 years. Pharmaceutical companies such as Purdue Pharma and drug distributors like AmerisourceBergen have formed the bulk of the defendants in these cases, usually settling for billions of dollars.

A Mother Sues Healthcare Providers over Son’s Death

HOPE Clinic pharmacies were sued by a mother who believes doctors at the clinic over-prescribed opioid medications to her son leading to his death. In a lawsuit, Inez Lewis said her son, Timothy Jason Lewis, who died on May 4, 2017, after overdosing, was introduced to drugs through negligent doctors’ prescriptions.

Inez claims that doctors at HOPE Clinic filled prescriptions despite suspicious prescription activity that violated the West Virginia Medical Professional Liability Act. The defendants in the lawsuit include; Cross Lanes Family Pharmacy Inc., four employees of HOPE Clinic, and Poca Valu-Rite Inc.

One of HOPE Clinic owners, James Blume, was among 12 people indicted in February for purportedly operating a pill mill at the clinic. Inez Lewis filed the lawsuit in Kanawha Circuit Court on June 29 on behalf of her son’s estate. This filing came four months after physicians, owners, employees, and managers at HOPE Clinic were accused of federal charges citing distribution of illegal substances.

The HOPE clinic team were accused of distributing Schedule II controlled substances, including oxycodone, outside their legal and intended medical purposes from November 2010 to June 2015. Their trials were rescheduled to November 5 from the original April dates presided at the Beckley courthouse by U.S. District Judge, Irene Berger.

The United States Drug Enforcement Administration rates all drugs on a five-tier system. Schedule I drugs have no medicinal use and are highly addictive while Schedule V drugs have low addiction capabilities, and commonly used in the treatment of common ailments. Inez Lewis said that the physicians started prescribing her son methadone and oxycodone in 2014.

Both drugs are strong painkillers but are highly addictive and quite lethal as stated in Inez’s lawsuit. None of these drugs were medically necessary for Timothy Lewis, and they contributed to his opioid addiction whose overdose ultimately caused his death. No defendant in the lawsuit reported the “suspicious prescription activity” to any federal regulatory agencies.

Timothy Houston of Brown Houston PLLC in Charleston represented Inez Lewis. The case was assigned to Judge Duke Bloom. The clinic had locations in Wytheville, Virginia and Beckley, Charleston, and Beaver in West Virginia. In February 2015, HOPE Clinic in Charleston closed down after West Virginia Office of Health Facility Licensure officers decided the clinic was risking patient lives.

Clinic’s branch in Beaver was also shut down with similar reports of narcotic auditors. The 12 defendants are faced with multiple charges including maintaining drug-involved premises, conspiracy to commit money laundering, distribution of controlled substances, and conspiracy to distribute oxycodone.
All defendants pleaded not guilty to these charges. Dr. John Pellegrini, a doctor at the Beckley HOPE Clinic is also charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering. He pleaded guilty in April and faces a jail term of up to 20 years in federal prison.

According to Federal prosecutors, HOPE Clinics operated in a cash-based business set up. They never accepted insurance for compensation for medications and services offered. According to the indictment, the clinic received at least $21 million from patients in cash payments from 2012 to 2015. It is alleged that clinic owners contracted physician’s services who knew nothing about pain management.

The physicians also conducted incomplete, cursory, or no thorough medical examinations of patients on many occasions. Inez Lewis, through the lawsuit, seeks unstipulated compensation for damages. She wants compensation for emotional distress, expenses arising from her son’s care and treatment, mental anguish, funeral expenses, and the loss of her son’s advice, guidance, comfort, and companionship.

Inez also seeks court costs and attorney’s fees together with all punitive damages against the defendants.

Swinomish Files Lawsuit Against Big Pharmaceutical Company For Perpetuating Opioid Crisis

Big Pharmacy is no stranger to lawsuits and this time they’re in a bind against not only an individual but an entire tribe. The Swinomish Native American tribe in Washington has filed a lawsuit against huge pharmaceutical companies, including Purdue Pharma, Endo Pharmaceuticals, and Janssen Pharmaceuticals, a division of Johnson and Johnson. Purdue Pharma is on the prime manufacturers of the deadly and addictive drug, Oxycontin. The Swinomish tribal community claims that the companies used false and misleading advertising techniques that “fueled the opioid epidemic and results in death and devastation to Swinomish families.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the rate of Native Americans and Alaska Natives dying from opioid overdoes skyrocketed four-fold between 1999 and 2013. By 2014, Native Americans had the highest death rate from opioid overdoes out of any other ethnic group in the country. The lawsuit attributes this increase and epidemic to the pharmaceutical companies. Further, the lawsuit states that the opioid epidemic affects the tribe culturally and economically and deceptive companies must be held accountable.

Swinomish Tribal Chairman Brian Cladoosby, the former president of the National Congress of American Indians says of the lawsuit: “We have been holding funerals while these companies reap record profits. It is time they are held accountable for the destruction they’ve caused in the Swinomish community.”

Purdue Pharmaceutical attempted to dismiss the Swinomish lawsuit but a King County Superior Court judge shut them down. Purdue also tried to counter lawsuits in South Carolina and Oklahoma and was not allowed.

For short-time rehabilitation to currently struggling opioid addicts, The Swinomish tribe established its own opioid dependency treatment center called The Didg’alic Wellness Center. “Didg’alic” is a Lushootseed word that translates roughly to “place where camas was dug” Camas is both a flower and food staples amongst Native American culture. This wellness center has been the Swinomish tribe’s way of taking back control in the out-of-control opioid crisis brought on by Big Pharma, but they feel the lawsuit will bring further justice.

Cladoosby sums up: “It’s very important for the companies to understand we feel they created a plague in the United States, and we don’t feel they’re doing enough to address it.”

Wake Up America! The Opioids Are Taking Over Medicine, One Dosage At A Time

Of the 77 million Americans that use opioids up to ninety-one Americans die from an overdose daily. Opioid medications are taken for chronic pain which occurs in at least fifty million Americans. It is ironic that the medical profession and the pharmaceutical companies are in the middle of this opioid epidemic because physicians continue to prescribe Opioids despite the fact that they are highly addictive. Further, selling and manufacturing Opioids is, at yet still legal, but only can be dispensed with prescriptions. It is a well-known business practice for drug company employees to personally visit their physician clients to introduce the company’s specific drugs. Opana ER was wrongfully marketed for a more extensive treatment of ailments, which included back pain. Back pain requires a more prolonged use of Opana ER, increasing the risk of addiction.

While Canada is facing its opioid crisis, not all countries have followed the same route as the United States and Canada. For instance, the Germans use opioids at the same rate as the Americans but do not face a crisis because there is an emphasis on the proper ways that a physician should prescribe opioids. Further, in Japan, it is not as easy to obtain a prescription of opioids than it is from the physician in the United States. Thus, the emphasis in Germany and Japan is to use opioids to support palliative care to improve the patient’s quality of life.

The United States has looked at the practices of drug companies in marketing opioids to the public and physicians. Andy Beshear, the attorney general of Kentucky, took legal action against Endo Pharmaceuticals and Endo Health Solutions for the deceptive marketing and manufacturing of Opana ER a robust painkiller. These pharmaceuticals minimized the risk of taking Opana ER.

Two hundred Kentuckians, without knowledge of the risks of Opana ER, perished in 2016, while the pharmaceuticals’ misrepresented that its competitors’ drugs were at a higher risk than that of Opana ER.

What was most troubling, was that Endo misinformed physicians that risk screening tools would identify people that would be predisposed to find Opana ER addictive. Endo Pharmaceuticals has withdrawn Opana ER from the market in July 2017.