In the past 20 years alone, the number of prescription opioids sold in America has nearly quadrupled. Unfortunately, this has resulted in a similar upward trend of prescription opioid-related deaths across the country.
According to the Missouri Department of Health & Senior Services, Missouri’s opioid crisis cost the state 951 lives and approximately $1.4 million per hour in 2017. This leaves much to wonder about the status of our state’s infrastructure, but more importantly, it begs the question about what can be done to prevent more money and lives from being lost.
Because opioids are highly addictive and can lead to debilitating side effects upon overdose or withdrawal, it is unsurprising that dozens of class action lawsuits have arisen against physicians, pharmacists and drug wholesalers, whose patients have alleged that doctors, drug companies and “pill mills” exploited patients, fueled their addiction and cost them and the state millions of dollars in fees.
At Wagstaff and Cartmell, our expertise in representing hundreds of clients in class action lawsuits has put us on the frontlines of the nationwide opioid epidemic. We have proven ourselves in the courtroom in the past in similar mass tort drug cases, and because we specialize in high stakes litigation, we are hopeful that we can make a difference for patients across the country who have been negatively affected by opioid medication.
What is Opioid Addiction, and Why is it a Problem?
Opioids like OxyContin and Vicodin are typically prescribed for the treatment of moderate to severe pain. They act by attaching to specific proteins called opioid receptors, which are found on nerve cells in the brain, spinal cord, gastrointestinal tract, and other organs in the body. When these drugs attach to their receptors, they reduce the perception of pain and can produce a sense of well-being and pleasure; people who abuse opioids often seek to intensify their experience by taking the drug in ways other than those prescribed.
Anyone who takes prescription opioids can become addicted to them, and as many as one in four patients receiving long-term opioid therapy in a primary care setting struggles with opioid addiction. In 2014, nearly two million Americans either abused or were dependent on prescription opioid pain relievers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The toll opioid addiction has taken on American society as a whole has been commonly referred to as the “opioid epidemic.” According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIH), it is estimated that between 26.4 million and 36 million people abuse opioids worldwide. An estimated 2.1 million people in the U.S. suffered from substance use disorders related to prescription opioid pain relievers in 2012, and an estimated 467,000 were addicted to heroin.
The Parties to Blame
In a suit filed by Kansas City in November 2018, city officials stated that the city had an opioid dispensation rate of more than 586 per 1000 residents in the second quarter of 2017. This alarming number is thought to have been influenced by deceptive advertising to doctors on the part of pharmaceutical manufacturers, who kept quiet about opioids’ negative effects in an effort to keep money flowing from helpless patients and their prescribing doctors.
City officials say they’re seeking compensation for the funds the city has spent directly fighting opioid abuse, “as well as costs the city has incurred to combat the public nuisance created by the drug companies’ deceptive marketing campaign that misrepresents the safety and efficacy of long-term opioid use.”
Purdue Pharmaceuticals, the maker of Oxycontin, is the top named defendant out of dozens named in the city’s suit. Purdue pushed back against similar lawsuits in a statement to Reuters in May, saying its drugs make up just 2 percent of all opioid prescriptions and it was disappointed it couldn’t reach out-of-court agreements with the plaintiffs.
At least 18 cities and counties in Kansas and Missouri have filed similar lawsuits against the opioid industry now, and more than 400 state and local governments have nationwide.
Common Opioid Prescriptions
The most commonly prescribed opioids (and the most central in opioid lawsuits to date) include:
- Oxycodone (brand names: OxyContin, Roxicodone, Oxecta)
What We Seek in an Opioid Class Action Lawsuit
Similar to other mass tort litigation claims, we seek to recover compensation on behalf of our clients for the damages caused to them by faulty or otherwise dangerous substances that are proven to have potentially debilitating side effects without adequate warning, or whose manufacturers intentionally obfuscate these side effects in an effort to hide them from the general public.
Through decades of experience handling cases such as these, however, we know exactly what to look for in an opioid claim in order to recover the maximum amount of compensation possible for those we represent. These damages may include:
- Increased expenses of drug treatment programs;
- Medical care/hospitalizations;
- Emergency medical transportation;
- Costs of law enforcement response/investigations;
- Costs of prosecutions and incarcerations; and
- Costs of repair for property damage.
The following damages may also be sought out in future (or ongoing similar) lawsuits:
- Medical expenses, including money (often thousands of dollars) spent on the prescription drugs in question;
- Costs for drug treatment programs;
- Lost wages;
- Pain and suffering;
- Funeral expenses (if they lost a loved one to overdose); and
- Any other relief the Court deems fair and just.
Any (or all) of these damages may be recovered by those who have been affected by opioid addiction.
Call for Action
Wagstaff & Cartmell is currently pursuing potential litigation involving the manufacture, marketing, sale and distribution, and/or the prescribing of prescription opioid products in Wyandotte County/Kansas City, Kansas (collectively referred to as “Unified Government “or “UG”).
In our hands, you can be sure that any case we represent (whether on a local or national scale) will be handled with expertise, compassion and in accordance with ethical guidelines so that you can focus on recovery during this high-stakes period. We are committed to handling all phases of investigation regarding any potential litigation, including:
- Handling all aspects of any ensuing litigation filed, including: pleadings, discovery, motion practice, trail preparation and consulting with experts necessary to analyze and develop the UG’s case;
- Apprising the UG Attorney or designee, by written report, of the status and development of the case no less than bi-monthly and, if requested, appear in-person for briefings to the Chief Counsel and other officials;
- Assisting the UG in responding to public records request made by outside entities to the UG regarding the investigation or litigation, to the extent required by law; and
- Having the resources in place to scan, search, redact, and produce all responsive investigation, discovery, or litigation documents or alternatively, to perform this work ahead of the time and make the documents available for examination and review.
We have proven ourselves in the past by successfully demonstrating the ability to satisfy the experience, capability, financial wherewithal, and compensation, among other considerations in both Kansas City and the nation. If you believe you have a claim in potential litigation regarding the opioid crisis in Missouri and across the country, contact us immediately to discuss your case in a free, confidential consultation session.