The Current State of Opioid Addiction Lawsuits and How Victims of Opioid Use Can Obtain Help

Side by side with state attorneys and governmental agencies, thousands of U.S. citizens who suffered themselves or lost a family member due to opioids are filing lawsuits against the principal opioid manufacturers and distributors blaming them for the addiction epidemic that has been so prominent in the national news. With over 55,000 Americans dying from opioid overdose every year, countless victims are deciding to take action by pursuing civil action against the opioid manufacturers and distributors to stop them from poisoning an entire country with these addictive drugs and to hold them accountable for the devastation they are causing.

If you have had your life wrecked by opioid addiction, withdrawals or overdose or if you have suffered the death of a beloved one from opioid addiction or overdose, Lattof & Lattof, PC is here to help. Our lawyers are ready and available to provide you with free legal consultation and information.

What are opioids and how do they work?

Opioid narcotics (or opiates) are highly addictive drugs which were initially designed to be prescribed for the treatment of pain since they provide prompt and effective pain relief. Although initially intended for short-term, acute pain relief, opioids have over the years been prescribed more and more for long-term chronic pain relief. Unfortunately, opioids act by binding to specific receptors found in the brain and other tissues, causing many effects other than just pain reduction. Long-term opioid use, in addition to causing almost certain addition, is associated with other serious side effects such as light intolerance, sleepiness, constipation and urinary retention.

These painkillers are prescribed to help patients cope with various types of pain caused, for example, by cancer, surgery, diabetic neuropathy, accidents and physical traumas. Up to 70% of the elderly patients and nursing home residents suffer from chronic pain conditions of the type for which opioids are widely prescribed. Since these drugs can also cause a subjective feeling of intoxicating “high” and a sensation of relaxation and euphoria, many people keep using them illegally for recreational purposes, even after the original reason for their use is resolved. Since opioids are so highly addictive, many people are forced to keep using them so as to avoid the severe withdrawal symptoms that would occur if they stopped the use. Many people who are addicted to opioids turn to illegal substitutes or are forced to buy their drugs off the street when their doctors stop the prescription - so as to avoid the withdrawals.

Morphine (legal) and heroin (illegal) are the best known opioid painkillers, but many more prescription opioids are available on the market, including:

  • Fentanyl
  • Oxycodone (Oxycontin)
  • Darvocet (Propoxyphene)
  • Morphine
  • Dilaudid (Hydromorphone)
  • Demerol (Meperidine)
  • Methadone
  • Hydrocodone
  • Codeine
  • Diphenoxylate

How do opioids kill people?

All prescription narcotics, even the allegedly safest ones, have a potential for abuse. Patients who need to take opioids to treat pain need to increase the dosage continuously since tolerance is developed very quickly. This vicious circle is associated with a high risk of abuse and consequent addiction. It is not so infrequent that people who developed an addiction to opioids would later turn to illegal heroin, with obviously deadly results. In any case, opioids are deadly drugs on their own since they’re associated with a potentially fatal risk of overdose and respiratory depression.

Misuse and inappropriate prescription are sadly very frequent, with life-threatening consequences in case of overdose. Many patients often die after long-term treatment with opioid painkillers, and a real epidemic is spreading across the nation. As an example of how widespread the abuse of opioids has become, there were 793 million doses of opioids prescribed in Ohio in 2015 - enough to provide every man, woman and child in that state with 68 opioid pills. States such as West Virginia have overdose death rates approaching 35 cases per every 100,000 people, especially when poverty and unemployment are high among the population.

Why is an entire country filing opioid lawsuits today?

Together with countless citizens, many states, cities and counties have decided to take the fight against the pharmaceutical companies who manufacture opioid painkillers and the distribution companies who distribute opioids to hold them liable for all the damage they caused. According to these lawsuits, the opioid manufacturers and distributors only cared about profit when they mislead millions of Americans into believing these drugs to be safer than they are and they totally failed their legal obligation to report suspicious prescription activity such as was found in the Ohio example ablve. Lawyers claim that the serious risk of addiction associated with opioids has been trivialized and their benefits vastly overstated.

Entire states have been flooded with these highly-addictive prescription medications, causing what has been called the largest drug epidemic in U.S. history. The toll has been devastating, with millions of families wrecked by crippling debt, people resorting to crime to obtain these drugs, and thousands of overdose victims mounting up year by year. Governmental agencies want the opioid manufacturers and distributors to pay the overwhelming costs of this crisis, including treatment facilities, law enforcement, jail expenses and public health care expenses. Many manufacturers and distributors have been sued so far, including Teva Pharmaceutical, Johnson & Johnson, McKesson Corporation, Cardinal Health, Mallinckrodt, Purdue Pharma, AmeriSourceBergen, and Allergan.

Current state of the opioid legal proceedings

Numerous states, counties and cities around the country have joined the fight against the opioid epidemic, together with a number of other governmental agencies. Ohio’s State Attorney General Mike DeWine filed an opioid lawsuit recently against several companies, following many other litigations filed by states such as Mississipi, Illinois and the Cherokee Nation. Many counties in California, New York, West Virginia and other states have also decided to take action to stop the thousands of fatalities and devastation caused by opioids every year.

On December 5th, 2017, a total of 155 individual opioid claims were consolidated by the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) in the National Prescription Opiate Litigation, MDL No. 2804. To preside over them, Judge Dan Polster of the Northern District of Ohio in Cleveland has been chosen.

On August 18, 2017, Illinois won a lawsuit against drug maker Insys Therapeutics, who settled for $4.45 million after a jury found it guilty of unlawfully promoting the opioid Subsys. In 2017, Cardinal Health paid $20 million after the state of West Virginia filed a litigation claiming the wholesaler flooded the state with opioids between 2007 and 2012. The same company already paid $44 million in 2016, when the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) found the company violated the Controlled Substances Act in New York, Florida and Maryland.

Why you should consider filing an opioid lawsuit

If you or one of your family members was prescribed an opioid and you had to experience the grievous consequences of withdrawal, overdose and even the death of a loved one due to opioid addiction, it’s time to seek justice.

Opioid manufacturers and distributors exploited patients, mislead doctors as to how addictive they were, promoted them for treatment of chronic pain when they were designed for short-term treatment only, and caused or contributed to the patients' addictions to controlled substances. They have countless injuries, hospitalizations, withdrawals, and death on their consciences.

Our lawyers are here to help you punish those callous criminals in disguise that keep pushing unsafe opioids in complete disregard for patients’ health. If you or a family member suffered the consequences of opioid addiction, died or became addicted to illegal opioids after initially being prescribed and using legal, name-brand prescription opioids, you might be eligible for a substantial cash compensation – even if the injury or death occurred as a result of subsequent use of illegal or black market opioids.

Call us now, we will fight this battle together for the sake of our entire country.

Mitchell Lattof Jr.
Mobile Alabama Personal Injury Lawyer