One State’s Plan To Make Big Pharma Pay To Clean Up Opioid Epidemic

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In a first-of-its-kind lawsuit out of Arkansas, the state says that big pharma should pay the billions of dollars it will take to fix the opioid crisis that the companies perpetrated when they misrepresented the benefits and flooded the market with the drug.


While there are dozens of lawsuits filed by state attorney generals like this nationwide, Arkansas is the first to file one single civil case that covers the entire state. The suit was filed last week in Crittenden County Circuit Court.

This lawsuit is unique in that it brings together all 215 of Arkansas’ cities as well as all 75 counties in the state.

“Our case is unique in that regard because it focuses on a remedy that will solve this problem,” said Jerome Tapley, one of the attorneys advising Arkansas in the suit.

Other states across the nation have already been in touch with Arkansas to find out exactly how to bring lawsuits like this one to their own region.

Big Pharma Should Pay

The lawsuit names 52 separate opioid manufacturers including Johnson & Johnson, Purdue Pharma, and Endo Pharmaceuticals. In addition to that, there are 13 distributors, pharmacists, physicians, and retailers identified as well.

The plan now is to have a jury determine just how much money the companies should pay to produce everything needed to address the crisis including mental health clinics, drug courts, treatment clinics, and other programs the state so desperately needs.

The suit alleges that opioid manufacturers perpetrated the crisis in the early 2000s when the companies,

“falsely touted the benefits of long-term opioid use, including the supposed ability of opioids to improve function and quality of life, even though there was no ‘good evidence’ to support their claims.”

Arkansas is not alone in the opioid crisis, but things are utterly grim there, nonetheless.

According to CNN, since the year 2000, the incidence of babies born addicted to the drug have increased ten-fold. Jails and court systems are clogged, and the state ranks first in the nation for children aged 12 to 17 misusing the painkillers.

The lawsuit also states that in the state of Arkansas drug companies sold enough opiates there to supply every man, woman, and child in the state 80 pills a year. In 2016 alone, there were more than 235 million opioid type pills sold across the region.

The population for the entire state of Arkansas is only around 3 million people.


Of course, the drug companies deny any wrongdoing. Johnson & Johnson took exception to the lawsuit and said that its marketing was “appropriate and responsible,” and that the allegations are “baseless and unsubstantiated.”

“The idea that distributors are responsible for the number of opioid prescriptions written defies common sense and lacks understanding of how the pharmaceutical supply chain actually works and is regulated,” said Senior Vice President of an alliance that represents the drug companies. “Those bringing the lawsuits would be better served addressing the root causes, rather than trying to redirect blame through litigation.”

It’s a fact that they manufactured the pills, lied about the benefits, and flooded the market with the drugs, so it will be fascinating to watch just how many hoops big pharma will jump through to attempt to prove the companies aren’t responsible for manufacturing this crisis.

Feature Image via Pixabay