Pharmaceutical companies came under fire in Oregon recently, the issue being the lack of punishment that the executives of drug companies are currently facing in regards to the growing epidemic of opioid addiction. In an article by the Statesman Journal, Oregon health fraud unit attorney general David Hart testified at a hearing of the Senate Finance Committee. During the committee he argued that personal accountability was necessary when dealing with drug executives, and that they should not be able to “walk away with their stock options and their salaries” when millions of people around the country are suffering from their unethical business practices. These practices include improper marketing and promotional practices of their highly addictive painkillers. Hart went on to demand the forfeit of profit earned from these improper practices, saying, “We need to have these companies help clean up the messes they make.”
It is no secret that millions of Americans have struggled with opioid addictions at some point in their lives, or are still currently fighting that battle. Opioid addiction outnumbers all illegal drug addictions such as heroin, methamphetamines, and cocaine (tobacco and alcohol not included). In fact there were 2.1 million Americans currently suffering from opioid pain medication addiction and abuse disorders in 2012, according to drugbuse.gov. Opioid overdoses kill 14,000 people a year, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That number has more than quadrupled since 1999 as opioid pain medication has been pushed and over prescribed by multi billion dollar drug companies. Furthermore, 7,000 people are admitted to emergency rooms due to opioid overdoses every day, according to the CDC. These opioids include:
- Hydrocodone (Vicodin)
- Oxycodone (OxyContin)
- Oxymorphone (Opana) and
Opioid Drugs Necessary for Those Suffering from Traumatic Injuries and Surgeries
While hundreds of thousands of people need and rely on opioids while they recover from traumatic injuries and surgeries, hundreds of thousands more are being prescribed these medication when they do not need them. Furthermore, long-term use is incredibly dangerous, as the longer a patient takes these medications, the more likely they will become addicted. Attorney general Hart included the drug manufacturer Insys in his scathing report, citing an investigation that found that the company gave improper financial incentives to doctors that wrote extra prescriptions for their opioid drug called Subsys. The company also promoted Subsys to doctors that were not qualified to prescribe it and who were told to deceptively push it on patients as a “mild” pain medication – patients who neither needed nor wanted such a strong medication. Insys settled for $1.1 million to be used to fight opioid addiction, which was twice the sales dollars of that drug in Oregon. Sadly, Oregon ranked fourth in states for abuse of prescription painkillers in a 2013 to 2014 study by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
The problem is rampant in New York as well, with many New Yorkers taking prescription pain medications as opposed to illegal street drugs, despite opioids being equally or even more addicting. If you have suffered from a prescription opioid addiction, contact the pharmaceutical litigation attorneys of Napoli Shkolnik PLLC today at (212) 397-1000.