Update: Decline in Opioid Deaths Linked to Use of Overdose Reverse Drug, CDC says
August 8, 2019 – The prescription drug naloxone may have something to do with the recent decline in deaths from opioid overdoses in the U.S. for the first time in 3 decades, according to the Los Angeles Times. Prescriptions of naloxone dispensed by U.S. pharmacies doubled from 2017 to 2018, increasing from 271,000 to 557,000, health officials from the CDC reported on Tuesday. Amid the deadliest drug overdose epidemic in the nation’s history, approximately 68,000 people died from opioid overdose in 2018, down from about 70,000 such deaths the year before, according to the agency.
“One could only hope that this extraordinary increase in prescribing of naloxone is contributing to that stabilization or even decline of the crisis,” said Katherine Keyes, a drug abuse expert at Columbia University.
Naloxone works by restoring breathing and bringing people back to consciousness. It was first approved by the FDA as an injection in 1971; an easier-to-use nasal spray version, Narcan, entered the market in 2015.
Free Confidential Lawsuit Evaluation: If you or a loved one suffered an overdose from a prescription opioid drug, you should contact our law firm immediately. You may be entitled to compensation by filing a suit and our lawyers can help.
Which Drugs are Opioids?
Some types of opioid medicines include:
- Codeine (generic form only)
- Fentanyl (Actiq, Duragesic, Fentora, Abstral, Onsolis)
- Hydrocodone (Vicodin, Hysingla ER, Zohydro ER)
- Hydrocodone/acetaminophen (Lorcet, Lortab, Norco, Vicodin)
- Hydromorphone (Dilaudid, Exalgo)
- Meperidine (Demerol)
- Methadone (Dolophine, Methadose)
- Morphine (Kadian, MS Contin, Morphabond)
- Oxycodone (OxyContin, Oxaydo)
- Oxycodone and acetaminophen (Percocet, Roxicet)
How Do They Work?
According to WebMD, opioid medications work by binding to opioid receptors in the brain, spinal cord, and other areas of the body. This reduces the sending of pain messages to the brain, thereby alleviating feelings of pain in the person. Opioids are used to treat moderate to severe pain, and interact poorly with many other prescription medications.
Are Opioids Overprescribed?
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), sales of prescription opioid pain medications nearly quadrupled between 1999 and 2014, but there has been no overall change in the amount of pain reported. During this same time period, deaths from prescription opioid painkillers have also increased similarly, CDC said.
Who’s Most Likely to Become Addicted?
CDC also found that prescription opioid abuse varies according to age, gender and ethnicity:
- Older adults (aged 40 years and above) are more likely to use prescription opioids compared to adults aged 20 – 39.
- Women are more likely to use prescription opioids than men.
- Non-Hispanic whites are more likely to use prescription opioids than Hispanics.
- There are no significant differences in prescription opioid use between non-Hispanic whites and non-Hispanic blacks.
Opioid Addiction Symptoms
Physical signs that a person may be abusing opioid medications include:
- Noticeable elation/euphoria
- Marked sedation/drowsiness
- Constricted pupils
- Slowed breathing
- Intermittent loss of consciousness
Other signs of possible opiate addiction may include “doctor shopping” (getting multiple prescriptions of the same drug from different doctors), shifting moods dramatically, extra pill bottles laying around the house / in the trash, social withdrawal / isolation, and sudden financial problems.
- Inability to sleep
Opioid lawsuits typically allege that doctors, pharmaceutical companies and “pill mills” exploited patients, got them addicted to prescription pills, and cost individuals and state governments millions of tax dollars. Furthermore, the complaints allege negligence, state code violations, and unjust enrichment on the part of the defendants.
Has a Class Action Been Filed?
Yes. Numerous individual and class action lawsuits have been filed against pharmaceutical companies and drug manufacturers by plaintiffs who claim they were not adequately warned about the risk of overdose, death, and other serious injuries associated with opioid use.
Can I File an Opioid Lawsuit?
Only a qualified attorney can determine whether you are eligible to file an opioid lawsuit, which is why we are currently offering free case evaluations. Simply fill out the confidential evaluation form below to contact our law firm now.
Most cases involving pharmaceuticals allege that a drug was sold with design, manufacturing, and/or marketing defects, which typically refers to a company’s failure to warn of a certain side effect. In the case of opioids, our attorneys suspect that patients may be able to take legal action in light of claims that manufacturers failed to adequately warn doctors and patients about the risk of addiction, overdose, and death.
How Can Filing a Lawsuit Help Me?
By filing a lawsuit against the maker of an opioid drug, you may be entitled to collect compensation for all current and future medical expenses related to the treatment of your injury, as well as for damages of pain and suffering. Additionally, filing a lawsuit can help hold the drug’s manufacturer accountable for releasing an allegedly defective drug into the marketplace, and to discourage other pharmaceutical companies from engaging in similar conduct.
Have There Been Settlements?
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced in January 2018 that settlement negotiations had begun for over 250 federal lawsuits filed against pharmaceutical companies and distributors over the nation’s opioid epidemic, according to ABC News. U.S. District Judge Dan Polster has been tapped to oversee what many hope will be a global settlement with the pharmaceutical industry that would also encompass lawsuits filed in state courts.
Opioid Deaths Among Children Triple in 20 years: JAMA Study
December 31, 2018 – The huge mortality rate associated with prescription opioids has resulted in almost 9,000 overdose deaths in young people over the past 2 decades, nearly tripling the number of pediatric opioid-related deaths during the same time period, the JAMA study found.
Opioid overdoses were up dramatically across the board, with 15-19 year-olds showing the greatest increase (a staggering 252% over the respective period); however, even the youngest age bracket, children aged 0-4, increased by 225%.
The researchers also determined that the overall death rate among minors from opiates (both prescription and illegal) increased 268% from 1999 to 2016.
Pediatric and adult death rates both plateaued around 2012-2014, with rates of death increasing again in late 2014, which the researchers attributed to a tightening of regulations in opioid prescribing, and a simultaneous increase in synthetic opioid deaths.
The study’s authors predicted that 2019 would be a dynamic year for both legislation and litigation concerning the opioid epidemic, which now kills more people than breast cancer.
The nation’s largest pharmaceutical companies are facing a literal tsunami of lawsuits in the coming months and years, which could total tens of billions of dollars in damages, the researchers conjectured.
Thousands of state and local governments are demanding that Big Pharma pay the costs of responding to the crisis. They’re also pushing companies to publish their internal documents, detailing what they knew about the risks of prescription pain medications.
Kentucky Attorney General Files Opioid Lawsuit Against Walgreens
Andy Beshear, Kentucky’s Democratic attorney general, has filed a sixth lawsuit against The Walgreens Company for deceptive marketing practices involving opioid painkillers.
Beshear announced the lawsuit on June 12 in Boone Circuit Court, saying that Walgreens excessively distributed opioids in Kentucky and failed to report suspiciously large orders it received for the drugs.
Beshear has also filed suit against Johnson & Johnson, Endo Pharmaceuticals, AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson Corporation, according to BizJournals. Together, these firms have supplied roughly 85% of opioid-based prescription meds in Kentucky, the attorney general said.
Between 2006 and 2015, Kentucky dispensed more opioid prescriptions than people in the state, which had the 6th highest number of opioid-related deaths in the U.S., according to Beshear.
Last month, Walmart and Sam’s Club pharmacies announced plans to provide a maximum 1-week supply of acute opioid pain relievers to most customers in an effort to help curb the nationwide epidemic that now kills hundreds of people per day.
“We are taking action in the fight against the nation’s opioid epidemic,” said Marybeth Hays, executive vice president of Health & Wellness and Consumables for Walmart U.S. “We are proud to implement these policies and initiatives as we work to create solutions that address this critical issue facing the patients and communities we serve.”
The scope of prescription opioid abuse is a serious global problem, according to the NIH. The institutes estimate that between 26-36 million people abuse opioids worldwide, with an estimated 2.1 million people in the U.S. suffering from substance use disorders related to prescription opioid pain relievers in 2012, and an estimated 467,000 addicted to heroin.
Opioid Epidemic Linked to Decline in U.S. Labor Force, Study Finds
A new study published in Brookings Papers on Economic Activity has made a convincing case for blaming at least part of a recent downward trend in the U .S. labor force on prescription opioid medications.
For this ‘first-of-its-kind’ study to be published in a peer-reviewed journal, researchers at the University of Tennessee (UT) looked at causal effects of opioid addiction on the U.S. labor force after a large number of employers began asking why no one was applying for job openings.
“The effects are really large,” said Matt Harris, assistant professor in UT’s Boyd Center for Business and Economic research and co-author of the study. “Prescription opioids may explain up to half of the decline in labor force participation since 2000.”
Effects of the opioid crisis are perhaps especially clear to the researchers who carried out this study, as Tennessee is among the states hardest hit by the drugs. On average, providers in Tennessee write 1.4 opioid prescriptions per person per year, according to the CDC. This rate is more or less equivalent to prescribing 80 opioid doses to every man, woman, and child in Tennessee each year, the agency found.
“We found that opioids have this strong adverse effect on labor force participation but only a marginally significant effect on the unemployment rate, which leads us to believe that opioids are leading individuals to exit the labor force entirely,” said UT’s Larry Kessler, who co-authored the study.
The researchers concluded by saying that any viable solution to the opioid public health crisis is going to require considerable funding and an increased focus on treatment. In addition to curtailing negative effects of opioid abuse, there are considerable economic gains to be gleaned from tackling the addiction issue head-on.
“The results suggest that in Tennessee, you could effectively boost income among residents by $800 million per year if you reduce opioid usage 10 percent,” said Harris.
The U.S. Department of Justice has recently been throwing the book at doctors for improper prescribing or fraud, charging nearly 200 doctors and another 220 medical personnel with opioid-related crimes over the past 2 years alone, the agency said. Still, the number of overdoses keeps climbing. Nearly 70,000 people died from drug overdoses last year, about 50,000 of which were opioid-related, including legal and illegal painkillers, as well as street heroin and fentanyl.
Trump Threatens Lawsuit Against Big Pharma for Opioid Epidemic
President Donald Trump on Thursday threatened to sue companies personally that he believes are fanning the flames of the opioid epidemic in an attempt to profit off human misery.
Trump said he’d like to file his own federal opioid lawsuit against the companies, rather than join existing litigation.
“Some states have done it,” Trump said, referring to the suits in a Cabinet meeting at the White House. “But I’d like a lawsuit to be brought against these companies that are really sending opioids at a level — it shouldn’t be happening. So highly addictive. People go into a hospital with a broken arm, they come out, they’re a drug addict.”
Virtually all major pharmaceutical companies in the U.S. are currently bogged down in litigation filed in response to the opioid problem, according to the Insurance Journal. In 2017 alone, nearly 72,000 people died from an opioid overdose or complications resulting from opioid addiction, according to the CDC. This figure has risen four consecutive years in a row, the agency said.
Earlier this month, members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee sent a letter to Purdue, Insys Therapeutics Inc. and Mallinckrodt Plc, major producers of opioid medications, asking what their role in the epidemic has been. Lawmakers have also focused on pharmaceutical distributors such as McKesson Corp. and Cardinal Health Inc. No word yet on any response from the companies.
Your Brain on Opioids: National Geographic Video
Trump asked the Justice Department on Thursday to address the import of synthetic opioids from China. These medicines have played a significant role in overdose deaths in the U.S., as users turn from prescribed pills to illegal compounds sourced from countries overseas.
Trump asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions to do everything within his means to get a handle on the situation.
“In China you have some pretty big companies sending that garbage and killing our people,” Trump said. “It’s almost a form of warfare. And I’d like to do whatever you can do legally to stop it from China and from Mexico.”
Opioid Epidemic has “Peaked,” Says Ex-Cleveland Clinic CEO
August 14, 2018 – The opioid epidemic in the U.S., which currently kills more people than breast cancer, has “peaked,” according to Dr. Toby Cosgrove, former CEO of the Cleveland Clinic and one of the nation’s leading voices on healthcare reform.
“We’re starting to see the understanding of the problem,” Cosgrove said Monday on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.” “[We] are getting to the point where people are certainty prescribing fewer drugs and people are recognizing how serious this is.”
Minneapolis Sues Opioid Manufacturers, Distributors for Contributing to “Epidemic”
Minneapolis City Attorney Susan Segal has filed a lawsuit against pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors for allegedly contributing to the nationwide “opioid epidemic” that now kills more people each year in the U.S. than breast cancer.
The Minneapolis opioid suit takes aim at 17 different firms, alleging that their unchecked profit motives significantly contributed to the furtherance of the Opioid Epidemic, which currently claims nearly 120 lives each day in the U.S. alone.
The crux of the new case filed in Minneapolis — and numerous others recently entered in courts across the U.S. — is that the defendants’ actions in regards to marketing opioids such as OxyContin and Fentanyl was reckless and has resulted in a critical public health situation, according to the plaintiffs. The suit follows a similar one filed by Minnesota County attorneys, according to the Star Tribune.
The lawsuit highlights Purdue Pharma’s development of OxyContin in the 1990s, and the subsequent promotion of that and other similar opioids, while downplaying their risks and potential for addiction.
The complaint also follows unsuccessful attempts by Legislature to pass a “penny-a-pill” tax on opioids to combat the ongoing epidemic.
“With legislative efforts to hold pharmaceutical companies accountable stalled at the state and federal levels, our city is charting its own legal course and bringing the fight directly to opioid manufacturers and distributors,” said Mayor Jacob Frey. “For years they knowingly helped fuel this crisis — they need to provide the resources and support to help repair the damage.”
The suit marks the most recent in a number of similar complaints filed against opioid purveyors and other entities that profit off the drugs, filed on behalf of state governments and other officials in their desperate attempt to reverse the damage caused by opioid dependence and abuse in the U.S.
Walmart to Restrict Opioid Prescriptions
May 8, 2018 – Walmart announced on Monday it will limit initial opioid prescriptions to no more than a 1-week supply in an effort to do its part to curb a nationwide epidemic which now kills more people than breast cancer.
Walmart also said on Monday that beginning Jan. 1, 2020, it would require e-prescriptions for all controlled substances, noting that electronic prescriptions tend to be harder to forge than their paper counterparts.
The supply limit will begin within the next 60 days, Walmart said. Earlier this year, the company said it would provide its customers filling prescriptions for opioids with a packet of powder that would help them dispose of leftover medication.
The U.S. government in recent years has been increasing efforts to reduce both the foreign and domestic supply of opioids, limiting the number of prescriptions written for the drugs locally, and providing counternarcotics assistance to countries abroad.
Meanwhile, government officials have attempted to reduce demand by focusing more on treatment and less on punishment. Victims of opioid abuse have also begun filing lawsuits in courts across the U.S., seeking to hold manufacturers and the phaemrcituval industry accountable for their part in the crisis.
The new initiatives apply to all the pharmacies of Walmart and its Sam’s Club unit in the U.S. and Puerto Rico.
Do I Have an OpioId Lawsuit?
The Pharmaceutical Litigation Group at our law firm is an experienced team of trial lawyers that focus on the representation of plaintiffs in opioid lawsuits. We are handling individual litigation nationwide and currently accepting new injury and death cases in all 50 states.
Free Case Evaluation: Again, if you or a loved one suffered from an accidental overdose on a prescription opioid drug, you should contact our law firm immediately. You may be entitled to a settlement by filing a suit and our lawyers can help.