For well over 100 years, the medical community has known that opiates are addictive. Originally, drugs such as morphine were used on terminally ill patients to help relieve their pain and keep them comfortable. This is known as “palliative” care. When opioids were used for these purposes, patients rarely became addicted.

Capitalizing on this, a company known as Purdue Pharmaceutical started marketing a drug known as OxyContin, or Oxycodone, as a pain reliever. Purdue took advantage of a paradigm shift in medical treatment-where pain became a vital sign. Purdue, and others in the market, created junk science saying that opioids, if prescribed by a doctor, were neither dangerous nor addictive. They also claimed, falsely, that OxyContin and Oxycodone, if taken as directed, will provide 8-12 hour pain relief. They aggressively courted doctors, showing them this junk science to encourage them to prescribe opioids to their patients.

Meanwhile, Mexico became a hotbed for the production of cheap “black tar” heroin. The Mexican drug cartels mastered a new form of selling this drug that made it easier for addicts to obtain their fix. They were able to flood the streets of America with cheap, easily available heroin. As people were unable to obtain or pay for prescriptions, they turned to heroin more and more. In approximately 2010, manufacturers changed the formula for opioids, making them impossible to crush into powder which could be inhaled (a preferred method of use for addicts). This change led to a spike in heroin use and overdoses. 

We have all seen news reports of overwhelmed cities and counties trying to deal with the scourge of opioid addiction. While Purdue and other pharmaceutical companies have made billions of dollars in profits, they have left an economic catastrophe for municipalities to deal with. States, cities, and counties have banded together to sue Purdue and other manufacturers under a theory of “public nuisance.” 

Also, there are distributors of these drugs. Major corporations such as McKesson and Cardinal Health fill the orders from doctors, hospitals, and pharmacies for all kinds of drugs. However, in order to be able to distribute prescription opioids, these companies must get authorization from the Drug Enforcement Agency to do so. The DEA requires these companies to “red flag” and report any suspicious orders. They did not do this, and “pill mills” became more and more common. 

Manufacturers knew that they were putting a dangerous and addictive drug into the stream of commerce, and they told doctors and the public that opioids were not addictive-flying in the face of over 100 years of medical science. Distributors knew that there were pharmacies and doctors’ offices that were ordering millions of pills that they did not need, and that they should have let the DEA know. They did not do this. Key Opinion Leaders, hired by the manufacturers, published articles and lectures containing “junk science” concluding that opioids were not addictive. This created the perfect storm. 

As a result of the massive number of lawsuits by the states, counties, and cities, Purdue Pharmaceutical, and the members of the Sackler family who own the company, have filed for bankruptcy in the Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York. The Judge in that claim is interested in determine whether people who have been individually harmed should recover damages.

If you, or someone you love, is or has been addicted to opioids-or overdosed-you may be entitled to recover money as a result of this settlement. 

Jeff has a wealth of knowledge opioid cases. He is a Co-Chair of the Opioids Litigation Group of the American Association for Justice, a national group of personal injury attorneys. His lawsuit on behalf of the Town of Amherst was the first filed by a town in New York State. Contact Jeff, and he can determine whether you have a case, and what you can do about it.