In 2015, more than 25,000 people in the U.S. died from overdosing on opioids like fentanyl, oxycodone and hydrocodone, which are either derived from opium or synthetic analogs of those narcotics. This is more than twice as many as a decade earlier, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. They now kill more Americans than homicides and are approaching traffic accidents as a cause of death. The population that suffers the most from opioid abuse is middle-aged white men, and the states with the highest overdose tolls are Ohio, Kentucky, New Hampshire and West Virginia.
The drugs were used for acute pain but over the last two decades doctors have increasingly prescribed them to treat chronic pain, giving them to patients for months or years at a stretch. Drug makers spent millions of dollars on promotional materials that misled doctors and patients by falsely denying or trivializing the risks of opioids while overstating the benefits of using them for chronic pain. In 2012, opioid prescriptions in Ohio equaled 68 pills a year for every resident of the state, including children.
Think of that: 68 pills a year for every resident of the state, not only adult residents, but also children.
Christine Arredondo, whose daughter was affected by addiction, and the Ohio attorney general, Mike DeWine, decided to do something about it.
Attorney general DeWine brought a lawsuit for the State of Ohio against the makers of drugs manufactured by: Purdue Pharma, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, Johnson & Johnson, Endo Pharmaceuticals, Allergan and others. Ohio’s lawsuit seeks to recover money the state spent on the drugs themselves through programs like Medicaid and on addiction treatment. Other states like West Virginia, Mississippi, the City of Chicago and counties in New York and California have also started ligation. The distribution of opioids will not end until it hurts the drug companies in their bottom line.
Purdue, the maker of OxyContin, a time-release opioid responded by saying: “We share the attorney general’s concerns about the opioid crisis and we are committed to working collaboratively to find solutions.” Purdue calls itself “an industry leader in the development of abuse-deterrent technology.”
Let’s see what they’re going to do.