New Jersey Joins Lawsuit Against Opioid Manufacturers

States across the country have begun examining the degree of blame that should be placed on drug manufacturers for the opioid epidemic gripping the nation.

On the heels of a lawsuit brought by Ohio Attorney General Michael DeWine against five pharmaceutical companies, a group of attorneys general from several states in mid-June launched an inquiry into the marketing of pain medications and whether it fueled the opioid crisis, which has been at epidemic levels for the past five years.

In 2015, opioids took the lives of more than 33,000 people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The death toll in New Jersey for 2015 was 1,600, or four times the number of people murdered in the state that year.

New Jersey Attorney General Christopher Porrino recently said that he will take part in the inquiry, joining his colleagues from states including Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and Vermont. Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery has taken the lead role in the investigation.

“I’ve always advocated for prevention, for treatment, for enforcement,” Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan said. “I also think that corporate accountability is an equal part in this effort to have a comprehensive approach to solving this issue.”

Donovan added that there are plans to subpoena documents and testimony to determine whether drug manufacturers broke the law to market and sell prescription drugs.

DeWine, the Ohio attorney general, has said the drug companies played a major part in creating the crisis with a marketing campaign that touted opioid analgesics for chronic pain, a pivotal departure from using opioids only to alleviate severe acute pain. The suit charges that the companies downplayed the risk of addiction in their marketing.

In reaction to the Ohio lawsuit, drug companies have denied doing anything improper. They have noted that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved these drugs as safe and effective and that they carried warning labels outlining their risks.

PDFNJ continues to play a crucial role in fighting the opioid crisis, most notably by launching its Knock Out Opioid Abuse Town Hall series this spring. We also have enlisted Dr. Andrew Kolodny, director of Physicians for Responsible Opiate Prescribing, to speak out on the problem. Dr. Kolodny recently appeared in an interview segment on the PBS program “Democracy Now!” and was critical of both the current and previous political administrations for doing little to combat the crisis. 


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