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Much like the rest of the nation, Chicago is in the midst of a prescription painkiller addiction epidemic. The difference, however, is that Chi-Town is doing something about it. The city is attempting to hold the pharmaceutical companies who make and market these highly addictive drugs legally responsible for the resulting devastation they have caused.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is gearing up for a lawsuit filed against five leading drug companies, including Johnson & Johnson. The suit was initially filed last June and asks for an unspecified amount of monetary compensation. According to the legal documents, all five pharma giants are accused of hiding the risks associated with opiate painkiller use, while simultaneously overstating the benefits.
The complaint says that “the city has paid for nearly 400,000 claims for opioid prescription fills, costing nearly $9,500,000” and has “suffered additional damages for the costs of providing and using opiates long-term to treat chronic non-cancer pain.”
According to a 2009 report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, about 1,080 Chicagoans were sent to emergency rooms for adverse effects directly related to opioid use, including overdoses.
“For years, big pharma has deceived the public about the true risks and benefits of highly potent and highly addictive painkillers in order to expand their customer base and increase their bottom line,” said Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel in a statement. “It’s time for these companies to end these irresponsible practices and be held accountable.”
Other cities and states have also stepped up to file lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies for the same reasons. For example, Kentucky filed its own $1 billion lawsuit against Oxycontin maker Purdue Pharma last month. Court documents reveal the state claims to have lost $1 billion paying for overdoses, addiction-related deaths and drug-related crime – all of which stem from Oxycontin abuse.
…the state claims to have lost $1 billion paying for overdoses, addiction-related deaths and drug-related crime – all of which stem from Oxycontin abuse.
“I want to hold them accountable in eastern Kentucky for what they did,” said Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway. “We have lost an entire generation. Half the pharmacies in Pike County have bulletproof glass. We had FedEx trucks being knocked off. It was the Wild West.”
In addition to state-sponsored law suits, two California counties have also gone on the attack.
Last May, both Orange and Santa Clarita counties filed suits against five pharmaceutical companies: Actavis, Endo Health Solutions, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Purdue Pharma, and Cephalon Inc.
Officials in both counties claim they have been wracked with prescription opioid overdose deaths and massive medical costs due to the increase in prescription opiate abuse. Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckus described the lawsuit as a “matter of public protection,” in that it will ultimately keep more overdose deaths from occurring.
Similar to the other lawsuits, court documents show that both California counties claim these five companies used “marketing – and not any medical breakthrough – that rationalized prescribing opioids for chronic pain and opened the floodgates of opioid use and abuse…[causing] important, sometimes life-or-death decisions to be made based not on science, but on hype.”
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