The several million Americans dependent on narcotic painkillers, along with their families, friends and co-workers, are probably giving a little cheer today at some pretty amazing news. Two California municipalities, Santa Clara County and Orange County, have launched lawsuits against five of the largest narcotic painkiller pharmaceutical companies in the world.
The suit, being brought on behalf of the entire state of California, accuses the drug companies of creating the nation’s prescription drug epidemic by “waging a campaign of deception” to boost sales of their dangerously addictive painkillers.
- Endo Health Solutions Inc.
- Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen Pharmaceuticals
- Purdue Pharma
- Teva Pharmaceutical Industries’ Cephalon Inc.
The drugs made or marketed by these companies include most popular brand name painkillers such as OxyContin, Percocet, Percodan, Opana, Duragesic and others, along with many generic narcotic painkillers, such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, fentanyl and others.
Both Orange and Santa Clara counties say they have been seriously impacted by prescription narcotic overdose deaths, emergency room visits and skyrocketing medical costs. The lawsuit contends that the pharmaceutical companies violated California laws against false advertising, unfair business practices and creating a public nuisance.
The LA Times said the 100-page lawsuit uses “sweeping language reminiscent of the legal attack against the tobacco industry.” The companies employed tactics similar to those used by the tobacco industry to “conceal their deceptive marketing and conspiratorial behavior.”
The suit “alleges the drug companies have reaped blockbuster profits by manipulating doctors into believing the benefits of narcotic painkillers outweighed the risks, despite ‘a wealth of scientific evidence to the contrary’”, the Times said. The lawsuit claims that the drug companies’ marketing practices “opened the floodgates” for such drugs and “the result has been catastrophic.” Patients were encouraged to ask doctors for narcotic painkillers to treat common conditions such as headaches, arthritis and back pain. The drug manufacturers promoted narcotic painkillers as safer than they actually are and promised unproven benefits such as improved sleep and quality of life. Such claims are beyond those allowed by the FDA, the suit says. The result, says the suit, is “a population of addicts” which has led to the explosion in heroin abuse and addiction – the same high at a fraction of the cost of illicit prescription painkillers.
The suit also says that in Orange County, there is a painkiller-related death every other day. The county’s district attorney told the Times he sees the suit as a matter of public protection, with the “primary goal to stop the lies about what these drugs do.”