Update: The Opioid Crisis Goes to Court – Largest Settlement to Date

There has been yet another win in the legal battle against drug companies for promoting the opioid crisis in our country.

Indivior Solutions, a pharmaceutical company known for its drug Suboxone which is used to treat opiate addiction and is itself addictive, agreed to pay $600 million to settle accusations of fraudulent marketing. Its parent company, Reckitt Benckiser, agreed to pay $1.4 billion.

According to attorney Bruce Judge, the combined $2 billion recovery reflects the largest resolution to date in opioid fraud cases. Judge writes: “Even by the standards of big pharma fraud, this case stands out. And not just because of the eye-popping numbers. Indivior knowingly used false information about child safety to market Suboxone to a State Medicaid program. But that’s just the start.”

“The case also involves Indivior’s secret letter writing and email campaign. That campaign featured outrageous references to giving small-pox infected blankets to native peoples and filibustering the Civil Rights Act.”

Suboxone comes in a film form instead of the usual pill form. Indivior claimed that children were less likely to accidentally take the film than a pill.

“As Indivior knew, the data showed children were more likely to ingest Suboxone Film than pills kept in child-proof bottles. Indivior officials simply lied about the safety of Suboxone Film. One Indivior official told colleagues that her rationale for lying about children’s safety was ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.'”

Indivior’s CEO, Shaun Thaxer, pled guilty to criminal charges for misbranding Suboxone and violating the  Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.


The Opioid Crisis Goes to Court

Originally published August 2019

If you are old enough to remember, there was a time when cigarettes were advertised as either an extension of a glamorous woman or the rugged mark of a handsome cowboy. Big Tobacco had their day in court in 90’s (and vaping will likely be there soon) but the current focus is on Big Pharma and opioids.

Once again, a public deceived (initially) into thinking a product was reasonably safe (after all, it was prescribed by a doctor) is now waiting to see the developments in what is known as the National Prescription Opiate Litigation. This particular lawsuit, taking place in the Ohio Federal courts, represents a consolidation of several suits brought against the makers (the Sackler family) and the distributors (McKesson among others) of the opiates which have fueled a raging storm of addiction and death in our country.

To be fair, many users were, and continue to be in severe and intolerable pain. Yet the overflow to recreational users who now cannot stop has reached staggering numbers – approximately 128 people overdose each day. Zachary Siegel of Slate writes the following in his recent piece covering the opioid crisis, How a Big Pharma lawsuit Could Succeed Where Big Tobacco Failed: “These lawsuits apply the same legal theory that extracted a $246 billion settlement from Big Tobacco in the ’90s for deceiving the public and hiding the full extent of the health risks associated with smoking cigarettes. Governments are paying out billions of dollars to treat an epidemic of addiction that was sparked, in part, by the widespread use and promotion of prescription opioids, and these companies that raked in billions of dollars should foot the bill. This time, rather than treating smoking-related illnesses like cancer, governments are shelling out billions of dollars on expensive drugs that prevent overdoses and treat addiction. Big Pharma, the plaintiffs argue, should pay up.”

The trial is set for October 2019.

However, a potential legal plot twist is in store as just last March, Purdue Pharma (owned by the Sackler family) agreed to pay Oklahoma $270 million in lieu of trial wherein members of the Sackler family were to be called to testify regarding the of charges of misleading marketing practices and misrepresentation of Oxycontin, according to David Noll’s piece First opioid lawsuit settlement raises questions with dozens more cases waiting.

According to Noll, this is just the tip of the iceberg for the Sackler family who will be facing suits in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island as well.

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Sources

Indivior Companies Pay $2 Billion for Opioid Fraud

How Is Suboxone Abused?

Opioid Manufacturer Indivior’s Chief Executive Officer Pleads Guilty in Connection with Drug Safety Claims

National Prescription Opiate Litigation

Opioid Overdose Crisis

Meet the Sacklers: the family feuding over blame for the opioid crisis

First opioid lawsuit settlement raises questions with dozens more cases waiting