A group of 29 Texas-based hospitals sued major opioid manufacturers and distributors such as Johnson & Johnson, Purdue Pharma and CVS Health for their role in the opioid crisis.
The Texas hospitals say opioid makers knowingly downplayed the risk of addiction from their products. The hospitals also accuse distributors and pharmacies of failing to identify and block suspicious orders of prescription painkillers.
The hospitals, led by Dallas-based Parkland Health & Hospital System, said the opioid crisis has taxed already scant resources.
From 2005 to 2014, hospitalizations involving opioids increased a startling 64%, and the rate of opioid-related emergency room visits nearly doubled, according to a 2017 study (PDF) from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.
Texas hospitals charge that surgical procedures on opioid addicts have been complicated and costly, as has treatment of opioid-related conditions such as infections and HIV.
These costs are a “direct and proximate result of the false narrative campaign” conducted by the companies, the lawsuit charges.
“Because opioids are very dangerous and highly addictive drugs, it was foreseeable to defendants that the increase in the use of opioids would result in a corresponding epidemic of patients with opioid-related conditions going to hospitals for treatment,” the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit names manufacturers such as OxyContin maker Purdue, Teva Pharmaceutical, J&J, Endo Health Solutions and Mallinckrodt. Suppliers and distributors listed as defendants include McKesson, AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and H.D. Smith.
CVS Health, Walgreens and Walmart were named because they sold and distributed opioids in Texas.
Texas hospitals join facilities in Arizona and West Virginia in suing opioid makers and distributors.
Advocates behind such lawsuits got a major victory last week when a federal judge ruled J&J had to pay Oklahoma $572 million for its role in the state’s opioid epidemic. This is the first ruling that a drug company had a role in the crisis, and J&J has vowed to appeal.
Purdue has also reportedly offered between $10 billion to $12 billion to settle thousands of lawsuits charging the company deceptively marketed opioids. Endo agreed last month to pay $10 million to two Ohio counties for its role in the opioid crisis.