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Massive Trial May Resolve Who Is to Blame for the Nation’s Opioid Crisis

The opioid epidemic in the United States has killed over 400,000 people, poisoned over two million with addiction, and prompted the largest and most complex civil action in U.S. history.

Makers and distributors of opioids like OxyContin argued they were blameless because they abided by the law and carried out their activities under the watch of government agencies.

'Diabolically complicated'

Revelations regarding the opioid crisis are playing out in U.S. District Court in Cleveland, Ohio, according to a Los Angeles Times. The court action is a massive consolidation of 2,000 cases brought by counties, cities, tribal entities, hospitals, insurance plan administrators and consumers.

Plaintiffs argue, according to the court’s website, “that the manufacturers of prescription opioids grossly misrepresented the risks of long-term use of those drugs for persons with chronic pain, and distributors failed to properly monitor suspicious orders of those prescription drugs — all of which contributed to the current opioid epidemic.”

Defendants include OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma and other manufacturers, distributors, physicians, and pharmacies. The case pits 35,000 accusers against 348 named defendants. It seethes with charges that the greed lasted years despite knowledge of the drug’s dangers and with expectations that settlements will cost billions of dollars.

“It’s diabolically complicated,” said lawyer Mike Moore, who represents four states and some cities and counties in the case.

Opioids are medications that provide relief by reducing the intensity of pain signals reaching the brain. Opioids have similar properties to the opium from which they are derived. Drugs in this class include Vicodin, OxyContin, and Percocet. Heroin is an opioid synthesized from morphine, a substance extracted from the seed pod of the Asian opium poppy plant.

Addiction to opioid painkillers such as OxyContin and the subsequent need to keep taking the drug after the prescription expires leads many people to take heroin as a substitute. Increasing the danger has been the introduction of fentanyl, a synthetic narcotic — hundreds of times more potent than heroin.

Plaintiffs said the makers and distributors of opioids should have done more than just grab money as the deaths and ruined lives wrecked communities for years — beginning in the late 1990s.

The marketing and dispensing of opioids that flowed into cities and towns

Addiction to prescription opioids — including OxyContin — now rules the lives of roughly 1.7 million Americans, according to the Times.

Every day, over 130 people in the U.S. die after overdosing on opioids, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The agency called the deaths and damage from opioids “a serious national crisis that affects public health as well as social and economic welfare.”

Vilified as the personification of greed, opioid manufacturers were accused of overselling opioids despite documented dangers, but opioid makers, distributors, and dispensers said they did what the law allows them to do.

The answer to the question may be that the blame is shared by many. Manufacturers said they briefed doctors on opioids’ risks as they were understood at the time. They produced the drugs under the monitoring of federal agencies like the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Distributors said they followed DEA rules in warehousing, recording and tracking the drugs’ whereabouts. They said they shipped opioids to drugstores as needed to fill prescriptions. Pharmacies said they dispensed the drugs as ordered by doctors under rules dictated by state legislatures.

Contact the Cherundolo Law Firm in Syracuse, New York today for help with issues related to opioid addiction, as well as for help with medical malpractice and product liability cases.