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Pharmaceutical Companies Facing First Opioid Trial After Pandemic Delays

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Pharmaceutical Companies Facing First Opioid Trial After Pandemic Delays

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The COVID-19 pandemic caused delays in litigation across the board; one of the biggest trials pushed back due to the virus has to do with allegedly deceptive marketing practices by several big-name pharmaceutical companies that underplayed the risk of serious addiction caused by the opioids they produce.

Four pharmaceutical companies have been named as defendants in this trial.

Johnson & Johnson, AbbVie’s Allergan unit, Teva Pharmaceutical, and Endo International are all named defendants accused of playing a significant role in nearly 500,000 overdose deaths in the United States. If successful, these companies will likely be required to pay out multi-billion dollar settlements to California counties that have been footing the bill for addiction and overdose-related expenses in their area, in addition to possible penalties for gross negligence in marketing.

Pharmaceutical companies are required to provide adequate warnings for medical providers and patients.

Inadequate and inaccurate warnings from pharmaceutical companies and medical providers are largely credited with the opioid crisis in the United States. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for a patient who is prescribed opioid for a painful condition to find themself addicted to the drug despite being assured that addiction was not a significant risk.

It is hypothesized that pharmaceutical companies have been downplaying the risk of addiction associated with opioids for years in order to convince medical providers to stock and prescribe it more often, and for patients to be more willing to fill those prescriptions.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), a shocking number of overdose deaths in the U.S. were caused by opioids.

From 1999 to 2019, the CDC credits at least 500,000 deaths to opioid overdoses. Tracking these opioids and the users’ origin of addiction led researchers directly back to the pharmaceutical companies responsible for not only manufacturing but also marketing these products. However, the pharmaceutical companies in question argue that they followed the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) guidelines, and as an FDA approved pharmaceutical, cannot be held liable for damages resulting from opioid overdoses. It should be noted that similar litigation against Johnson & Johnson was won by the State of Oklahoma in 2019 with a $465 million judgment.

Similar litigation is upcoming in other states as well.

This slate of long-put-off litigation against allegedly negligent pharmaceutical companies is coming to be referred to by some legal professionals as the “day of judgement” and the “day of reckoning” for opioid manufacturers. Due to the pandemic, trials that should have already occurred were delayed, but with courts across the country reopening and established means of remote litigation in other areas, these and other pharmaceutical companies will be required to face these and other allegations in court to determine what role they played and continue to play in the opioid crisis.

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