Health

Road to US opioid settlements has been long and complicated

Major pharmaceutical companies have announced that they have gained the approval of opioid settlements worth nearly $ 25 billion in one of the most controversial legal battles in U.S. history.

The opioid crisis in the United States has claimed more than 500,000 lives in the last 20 years. It also produced one of the largest legal campaign chains in the country’s history.

On Friday, Johnson & Johnson and three other major drug dealers said they had received sufficient support from prosecutors to complete the settlements worth nearly $ 25 billion.

But many other cases are still pending.

James Williams, a Santa Clara County, California, attorney, first filed a lawsuit in 2014 accusing drug makers of “pushing and using opioids in ways that promote abuse, and cause such serious harm.” in communities. ” He said in an interview.

Williams described the goal as twofold: holding companies accountable for their actions and receiving compensation. The opioid epidemic has forced the local government to spend more on hospitals, mental health and other social services, including the homeless.

The lawsuit, filed by Santa Clara and other counties, was initially dismissed in court, but was later appealed.

Williams, who also holds peace talks with companies, he said there was no way to make full repairs to the losses.

“The dollar bills offered by such various settlements are poor compared to what is actually needed to try to curb the negative effects of opioids in communities across the country,” Williams said.

Lessons from tobacco

The United States is no stranger to a long legal battle, with controversy over tobacco, asbestos and pesticides causing legal turmoil.

But opioids have taken things to a new level.

“Plaintiffs are not large in number, but diverse,” said Mark Lanier, chief prosecutor. “You have states, districts, cities, American tribes, hospitals, and more.”

The case has been a source of controversy for civil society after companies won legal battles by arguing that people used drugs.

Local organizations are approaching the opioid case with the hope of avoiding a repeat of what happened with the tobacco case, said Christine Minhee, a lawyer who conducts the site’s investigation. opioid villages.

In 1998 arbitration is required tobacco companies to pay $ 246 billion over 25 years, but less than a third of the money associated with tobacco taxes goes to programs to stop smoking, or to help people quit, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

Instead, most of the proceeds from the settlement went into the general budget and ended up being spent on other programs, such as building roads.

“The Local Government Areas do not trust that the state government will make their money wasteful,” Minhee said.

Local authorities’ reluctance to hire private law firms has also fueled lawsuits, according to Alexandra Lahav, an expert on torture law at the University of Connecticut.

Lawyers “will get a share of the money,” Lahav said. “There is a structured system that will create incentive for these profitable lawyers to create this case.”

Most of the defendants

Another stumbling block is the number of companies being sued, from laboratories that make drugs to companies that distribute them.

Drug users like Purdue and Johnson & Johnson are accused of encouraging doctors to use over-the-counter medications that they know can be addictive. Some of these companies have filed bankruptcy protection applications.

Drug distributors have also been under attack, with pharmaceutical companies selling drugs to patients directly.

During the trial, more than 3,000 lawsuits were filed in U.S. District Court Judge Dan Polster of Ohio, encouraging the parties to reconcile, while also pursuing other lawsuits.

Steven Skikos’ lawyer is in talks with companies to reach a $ 665 million deal for the American tribes, especially those affected by the conflict.

Under a process signed by a judge, the plaintiffs were able to present their case with speedy judgment.

“Obviously this is a complicated matter,” Skikos said. “But the issues are the same legal issues which appears in any case: Are the defendants responsible? How bad have they been? ”


A California judge has sided with drug companies in an opioid lawsuit


© 2022 AFP

hintThe route to the U.S. opioid settlements has long been complicated (2022, February 26) Retrieved 26 February 2022 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2022-02-road-opioid-settlements-complicated.html

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