Ohio Lawsuit Takes On Drug Epidemic
America’s opioid epidemic isn’t a pleasant topic. But as the rate of drug overdoses continued to rise, it’s a subject to confront and discuss. A lawsuit, filed this week by the state of Ohio, hopes to turn some of the discussion toward big pharmaceutical companies and their role in supplying the cause of the epidemic.
The Opioid Epidemic
Opioids are a family of narcotic pain medications. They bind receptors to the brain and spinal cord, reducing pain messages from the brain. Due to this effect, opioids typically serve as prescription painkillers. They are stronger than general over-the-counter painkillers, and are therefore reserved for more serious situations, like pain after surgery. Some types of opioids include:
Heroin also falls under the opioid category. While they can help a patient recover from pain, opioids are also highly addictive. When paired with the fact that these medications are readily available, this sets the scene for a major crisis.
According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, 20.5 million Americans struggle with a substance abuse disorder, with the majority of these cases involving pain relievers and heroin. This makes drug overdose the leading cause of accidental death in the United States. But despite these statistics, 259 million prescriptions for opioids are written every year. This is enough to give every American their own bottle of pills.
An Issue Across America
Typically, we may associate the opioid epidemic with rural communities in the Appalachian area, like Ohio, West Virginia, and Kentucky. However, the crisis is a widespread issue, and people are dying of overdoses across the United States, including Florida. In recent years, the crisis, generally associated with poor or rural areas, has spread to more affluent communities. Again, since these drugs are easily accessible, the dangerous side effects can affect anyone, regardless of socioeconomic status.
Addiction and overdose is often a taboo subject, but education is an important step in fighting the issue. While recreational use of opioids and other drugs is most definitely illegal, many people argue that too much emphasis is put on criminalization. They believe the real focus should be recovery for addicted people. In Ohio, the new lawsuit shifts blame away from the addicts themselves, and places it on big pharmaceutical companies.
Placing the Blame on Big Pharma
Ohio’s class action lawsuit, filed by the state’s Attorney General, claims that pharmaceutical companies are complicit in the epidemic. It claims that the companies know about the dangerous risk of addiction, yet continue to market and sell their products. The companies named as defendants in the suit include Johnson & Johnson, Purdue Pharma, and Allegan. If the lawsuit is successful, the companies will likely have to change their marketing practices.
While Ohio’s case is a complicated matter involving advertising, opioids also play a role in medical malpractice and personal injury. When a patient takes a drug like oxycodone and fentanyl, their doctor needs to warn them about all side effects, including the risk of addiction. If a doctor does not properly disclose this information, leading to an overdose or other injury, their doctor is potentially liable. Opioids are a complex subject, because they can be helpful in some situations and fatal in others, which is why it’s incredibly important that patients understand what they are taking. Ohio’s lawsuit is a step in the right direction toward fighting the opioid epidemic in the United States.
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