In the not-too-distant past, millions of Americans were prescribed opioid medications and told that they were safe and non-addictive. The doctors who prescribed these medicines had been told as much by their manufacturers and were often showered with gifts as an incentive to prescribe these pills. Decades later, we know that these claims were a lie — and are now grappling with an epidemic that was caused in part by the overprescribing of opioids.
In 2017, the United States declared the opioid epidemic to be a public health emergency. Millions of Americans have been affected by opioid addiction, which often starts with the use of prescription pain pills. A class-action lawsuit against the manufacturers and distributors of these medications may be a way to achieve justice.
If you have been affected by the opioid epidemic, whether you struggle with addiction yourself, have a family member who is addicted, or have lost a family member to an overdose, you may be able to join in a class-action lawsuit. An opioid class action lawyer will represent your interests and help you get the compensation that you deserve for your losses.
Opioid Addiction in the United States
Across the United States, opioid addiction and opioid use disorder are at epidemic levels. 3 million Americans suffer from opioid use disorder, while an additional 500,000 Americans are addicted to heroin. In 2017 alone, there were 47,000 deaths attributed to opioid overdose.
According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), the increase in opioid use disorder is due in part to overprescribing opioid medications. Approximately 80% of heroin users in the United States report that prescription opioid pills were their introduction to opioid use and led to their opioid use disorder. Between 2002 and 2011, more than 25 million Americans started non-medical use of opioid pain relievers; more than 11 million of these individuals missed their medication.
The opioid epidemic started in the late 1990s when pharmaceutical manufacturers began an aggressive marketing campaign for their opioid products. This included telling healthcare professionals that this new class of opioids was not addictive. As a result, doctors began to prescribe opioids at increasing rates — and the widespread diversion and misuse of the pills.
With prescription opioid medications flooding the United States, the rate of addiction and overdoses began to rise dramatically. By 2018, 1.7 million Americans suffered from substance use disorder related to prescription opioids. Between 21 to 29 percent of patients who are prescribed opioids for chronic pain misuse them.
Certain areas of the country were particularly hard hit by opioid addiction. This includes the Midwest, where opioid overdoses increased by 70 percent from July 2016 through September 2017.
The cost of opioid addiction is enormous. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the total economic burden of this epidemic is $78.5 billion, which includes $28.9 billion for increased healthcare treatments and costs. At the same time, the companies that manufactured and marketed these addictive pills were raking in billions of dollars in profit each year.
For those affected by the opioid epidemic, including those whose loved ones have died from an overdose, the fact that these companies have profited from their heartache is particularly galling. A class-action lawsuit against opioid manufacturers is one way to seek justice.
What Is a Class Action?
A class-action lawsuit is a type of legal claim that allows a group of people who have been similarly affected by wrongdoing to band together. Typically, one or more people act as a representative of the group. The underlying reason for the class action may vary, but all members of the group will have suffered common injuries as a result of the actions or inactions of the defendant(s).
While each member of the group could file a lawsuit individually, there are many advantages to filing a class-action lawsuit. First, this type of claim is often more cost-effective. Instead of each person getting their own expert witnesses, filing their own legal papers, and gathering and reviewing the documents as individuals, the entire group can share these expenses.
Second, many claims probably would not be filed without a class action. For example, if a store was inflating their “regular prices” to make it seem like their “sale prices” were better than they actually are, each person who was harmed may have suffered a relatively small loss (such as $20 each). It isn’t worth the time and expense to file a lawsuit over $20 — but if thousands or even millions of people suffered the same injury, a class action lawsuit allows this harm to be addressed.
Third, class action lawsuits can level the playing field when the wrongdoer is a large corporation. An individual may not have the resources to pay for a protracted legal battle, and the big company may use a variety of tactics to draw out the lawsuit. But if that same defendant is faced with thousands of similar claims in one lawsuit, they may be more inclined to settle the case.
Fourth, class actions are better for the court system. It is far more efficient for a court to hear one lawsuit involving many people than it would be for the same court to handle hundreds or thousands of lawsuits about the same issue.
Depending on the type of claim, a class action lawsuit may be filed in state or federal court. The key in any class action lawsuit is to hire the right law firm — one that will be approved by the court to take on the case, and that has the experience and knowledge to get the best possible outcome.
Filing an Opioid Class Action Lawsuit
Millions of Americans have suffered as a result of the opioid epidemic. This number includes both the people who are grappling with opioid addiction as well as the families who have been affected by their loved one’s addiction or overdose death. A class-action lawsuit will allow these individuals to seek justice from the pharmaceutical companies that profited from their losses.
States and counties across the United States have already filed lawsuits against the opioid manufacturers and distributors who are responsible for fueling the opioid epidemic. The defendants in these lawsuits include companies like Purdue Pharma, Cephalon, Teva Pharmaceutical, Johnson & Johnson, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Noramco Inc., Endo Health Solutions, Mallinckrodt, Allergan, Actavis, Watson Pharmaceuticals, Insys Therapeutics, AmerisourceBergen Drug Corporation, and Cardinal Health.
People who have been harmed by the lies told by pharmaceutical companies and distributors in their marketing campaigns may be able to join together to file a class-action lawsuit. In doing so, they can hold these corporations accountable for the harm that they have caused.
Damages in a class action lawsuit will vary depending on the type of claim. Generally, each member of the class will be entitled to a portion of any settlement or verdict obtained at trial. In most cases, this will be in the form of financial compensation.
How We Can Help
The opioid epidemic has ravaged America. The greedy, unethical actions of pharmaceutical companies in the late 1990s touched off a wave of addiction and death that has devastated communities across the country. A class-action lawsuit is one way to right this wrong.
At Wagstaff & Cartmell, we have significant experience handling class action lawsuits — and a track record of success. Our team of attorneys has the skill and knowledge to take on Big Pharma on behalf of the millions of Americans who have been affected by their practices. Contact us today at 816-701-1100 or email us to schedule an appointment with an opioid class action lawyer.