Opioid Settlement: Crisis, Lawsuits & Investigations

Opioids are a form of pain reliever that mimics naturally produced substances in the opium plant. Prescription pain relievers such as OxyContin, Vicodin, opium, and others are among them. They do, however, include synthetic street drugs such as heroin and fentanyl.

Opioids are potent pain relievers and are usually prescribed to patients to alleviate moderate to severe pain. Controlling agony after surgery, pain after an accident such as a fractured wrist, or pain from cancer are some of its applications. However, despite significant complications and lack of support for long-term effectiveness, there has been a recent rise in opioid use for chronic, non-cancer pain such as headaches, back pain, and arthritis.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 168,158,611 opioid prescriptions were provided by health care personnel to US citizens in 2018 alone. Although opioids may help patients manage intense, extreme pain for brief periods of time, opioids are extremely addictive and may be abused. As a result, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, advise against lengthy opioid consumption.

According to the most recent CDC reports, health care providers administered approximately 51 opioid medications for every 100 patients in the United States in 2018. This equates to approximately 168,158,611 prescriptions.

According to the CDC, Alabama, Arkansas, and Tennessee have the highest opioid rates, ranging from 81.8 to 97.5 prescriptions per 100 residents.

Opioid Crisis

The drug problem, also known as the opioid epidemic, started in the 1990s, after doctors began prescribing opioid pain relievers more frequently. As per the Department of Health and Human Services, this was when drug manufacturers convinced doctors that their medications were not addictive. However, accelerated prescribing attributed to drug dependence and addiction to non-prescription and prescription opioids. In 2017, HHS called the drug epidemic a public health emergency. According to HHS, more than 130 people die every day due to opioid and almost 10.3 million people misused prescription medications in 2018.

Several states, cities, villages, and counties have filed opioid cases against drug makers as a result of the epidemic. In each of these lawsuits, drug makers are accused of misleading the public on the toxic value of opioids.

The Core Reason behind Opioid Lawsuits

Cities and states are suing to retrieve the effects of the opioid crisis. People and their friends are suing to seek losses incurred by alcohol and the death of their loved ones who died from an overdose.

The core argument in all opioid cases is that opioid manufacturing companies and sellers sold and administered opioids in an improper manner to counties and cities across the country. Hundreds of thousands of Americans died as a result of improper promotion and supply.

According to a lawsuit filed by Letitia James, attorney general for the State of New York. “From 2000 through 2011, the number of prescriptions for the Manufacturer Defendants’ opioid drugs more than quadrupled nationwide, even though there was no scientific basis for any significant increase in opioid treatment as medically necessary or appropriate.”

The specific allegations were:

  • Drug manufacturers exaggerated the advantages while downplaying the dangers of opioid withdrawal and other side effects.
  • Manufacturers actively sold their drugs directly to doctors as well as by paying “main opinion makers” to write articles highlighting the effects of opioids.
  • Manufacturers sponsored “front companies” that disseminated knowledge regarding the effects of opioids while ignoring the consequences.
  • Distributors refused to track, evaluate, identify, and record suspicious opioid sales.

Government Investigations

Senator Claire McCaskill of the United States Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee investigated distributors of opioid and suppliers as well as issued a series of recommendations during 2017 and 2018 including: “Fueling an Epidemic: Exposing the Financial Ties Between Opioid Manufacturers and Third Party Advocacy Groups” and “A Flood of 1.6 Billion Doses of Opioids into Missouri and the Need for Stronger DEA Enforcement.” Many lawsuit claims are based on facts found in these reports.

Exposing the Financial Ties between Third Party Advocacy Groups and Opioid Manufacturers

From 2012 to 2017, this report revealed millions of dollars in compensation from drug distributors to 14 outside associations and doctors consulting with chronic pain and other opioid-related problems.

The authors of the report wrote, “Proposals from the organizations in this research often repeated and reinforced messages conducive to expanded drug use—and, eventually, the financial interests of opioid manufacturers.”

A Flood of 1.6 Billion Doses of Opioids into Missouri and the need for stronger DEA enforcement

This report focused on 3 major drug distributors; AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson — who refused to report suspicious opioid sales orders in Missouri. According to the paper, firms “knew or should have known that hundreds of millions of pills were winding up on the black market.”

From 2012 to 2017, three major manufacturers — McKesson, AmerisourceBergen, and Cardinal Health — exported about 1.6 billion dosage packs of opioids to the state, according to investigators. This equates to approximately 52 doses per person in Missouri, USA.

According to the report, “these ‘big three’ manufacturers have also repeatedly refused to fulfil their reporting requirements throughout the last ten years… in several instances surrendering licenses for delivery centers and imposing substantial penalties after DEA and Department of Justice investigations.”

Opioid Settlement

Drug manufacturers and sellers have consented to pay billions of dollars in payments to the Department of Justice, counties, and jurisdictions.

Purdue Pharma agreed to pay the state of Kentucky $24 million as one of the first deals in 2015. Purdue allegedly deceived the public about the addictiveness of prescribing opioids, according to Kentucky’s litigation. Settlements have totaled billions of dollars since then. In 2016, Cardinal Health paid around $44 million for violating Controlled Substances Act violations in Maryland, Florida, and New York.

In 2017, Cardinal Health paid $20 million to West Virginia for delivering drugs in the state between 2007 and 2012. The same year, Costco Wholesale paid $11.75 million to settle charges that it abused the Controlled Substances Act. Moreover, Mallinckrodt (MNK) agreed to pay $35 million to settle accusations of false reporting of illegal orders of prescription drugs.

In 2019, Johnson & Johnson paid Oklahoma $572 million for triggering the state’s drug problem whereas Purdue gave $12 billion to local and state governments, plus $3 billion from the drug company’s owners, the Sackler family.

McKesson Corporation, AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, and Teva Pharmaceuticals have allocated $260 million to Cuyahoga and Summit counties in Ohio in 2019. In 2020, Mallinckrodt has settled for $1.6 billion.


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Opioid narcotics are manufactured by different pharmaceutical companies. Commonly prescribed opioids include:

  • Oxycodone
  • Hydrocodone
  • Methadone
  • Fentanyl
  • Morphine

These medications are often prescribed for patients who have experienced serious physical trauma, such as a serious car accident or sports injury. Some medical clinics have become involved in such a common practice of over-prescribing these narcotics that the US DEA has been involved in numerous crackdowns to shut down these “pill mills” as they are known.

When a person uses strong pain relievers like opioids, even under a legal prescription, the person can become addicted. After that point, even if the doctor withdraws the prescription, the person may experience addiction symptoms and engage in drug-seeking behavior. This, in turn, can lead them to seek drugs illegally in pill factories or on the street. Besides, the lack of access due to the suspension of the prescription can cause them to move towards illegal narcotics such as heroin.
The desperation of these people to satisfy their addiction has led to an increase in criminal activity, as well as the cost of public health services. Opioid abuse lawsuits filed against manufacturers claim that drug companies knowingly withheld evidence about the danger of opiates, ignoring the highly addictive nature of these drugs. Some even accuse the corporations of setting up bogus third-party advocacy campaigns to support their advertising of these drugs.

How Opioid Lawsuit Settlement Filed?

It is important to understand who these lawsuits are being brought against and how each type of defendant is alleged to be responsible for the opioid epidemic. According to opioid lawsuit news, opioid lawsuits have been filed against the following types of defendants:

  • Hospitals
  • Medical professionals
  • Negligent Pharmacies
  • Pharmaceutical manufacturers
  • Wholesale distributors

Opioid class action lawsuits continue to make tough lawsuits against defendants, including using money to increase the sale of these drugs, ultimately allowing opioid abuse to run rampant.

The health and social effects of opioid abuse within society led government agencies to seek financial reimbursement from negligent manufacturers and distributors. Estimated damages exceed $ 50 billion each year. Specific damages that government agencies seek compensation include Additional costs for police and medical personnel, prosecution and jail costs, maintenance, and staffing for treatment facilities.