Drug Manufacturers Blamed for the Opioid Crisis
The risks of opioid addiction to society cannot be overstated. An estimated 55,000 Americans die annually as a result of drug overdose. This figure has increased threefold over the past 15 years, and it will continue to grow if strong efforts are not made to treat addicts and prevent future addiction. Drug overdose is now the leading cause of death in people under the age of 50.
In addition to drug-related fatalities, the opioid crisis is associated with unemployment, poverty, damaged relationships and degradation of physical and mental health. The effects of drug addiction are, in other words, devastating to communities. As a result, many communities are searching for a culprit who can be held responsible for the rising rates of opioid abuse.
Should the opioid crisis and drug manufacturers be connected? Many states, cities and counties are now filing class-action lawsuits against drug manufacturers and distributors to hold these companies responsible for the damage their products have caused.
Holding Pharmaceutical Companies Accountable for Opioid Addiction
The majority of people who become addicted to opioids began taking them legally. Prescription drugs meant to manage pain can become addictive very quickly, and some argue that pharmaceutical companies have downplayed these risks in favor of selling more drugs. It’s alarming to realize that the U.S. consumes over 80 percent of the opioids manufactured in the world despite accounting for just 5 percent of the global population.
Critics of the pharmaceutical companies argue that the for-profit nature of American medical care has led to prioritizing profit margins over patients, laying the groundwork for opioid addiction. Pharmaceutical lobbies also wield power and political influence, potentially shaping how the drug crisis is dealt with on a policy level.
More than 100 communities have filed civil suits against drug manufacturing and distribution companies. Some of the states involved include Ohio, Missouri, Tennessee and Oklahoma.
Municipalities are motivated to take action in part because of the high costs of addiction to communities. Law enforcement, paramedics, drug treatment facilities, morgue workers and social services are just some of the city-funded sectors that have felt the financial impact of the opioid crisis. In some cases, communities are simply unable to keep up with the costs. The lawsuits are motivated in large part by the need to find more money to pay for crucial services in these needy communities.
Complex Problems Require Complex Solutions
In many ways, the wave of lawsuits being filed against today’s pharmaceutical companies mirrors the 1990s push to hold the tobacco industry accountable for smoking-related health issues. After a series of lawsuits, the tobacco industry was ordered by the courts to pay $200 billion toward smoking cessation and other health directives over the course of 25 years. The lawsuits also dramatically changed the way that tobacco products could be marketed and sold.
Of course, drug manufacturers are not exactly in the same position as tobacco companies. One of the biggest differences is that drug companies do not market directly to consumers. The doctor writing an opioid prescription should share in the responsibility of that drug’s abuse. Another issue is that not everyone who takes prescription painkillers will end up abusing them. Drug companies might argue that they should not be responsible for the effects of people using their product in a way that was not intended.
It’s too early to know whether these lawsuits will make a long-term difference in the nationwide opioid crisis. What is clear is that this is a complex problem that will require action taken at every level. Abuse prevention may focus on changing the way that opioid prescription drugs are marketed and better informing patients of their risks. Harm reduction programs, drug rehabilitation and community services can also help those already struggling with addiction.
To learn more about our facility and how we’re doing our part to help members of our community in their struggle against addiction, contact St. Gregory Retreat Centers today.