Addiction Specialist Calls Lawsuit Over Opioid Crisis "Justified" and "Overdue"
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (localmemphis.com) - While some Shelby County leaders blasted the lawsuit filed by Shelby County Thursday over the opioid crisis, those in the Mid-South who treat opioid addiction say the legal action is justified and overdue.
That lawsuit names two dozen defendants, including pharmaceutical companies, Tennessee pharmacy companies, and medical clinics which served this area.
Shelby County set new record highs for overdose deaths involving heroin and opioids five straight years, including 197 in 2016.
“I see the effects of what's happening here, we get news that we've lost people,” says Stacy Dodd, Director of Operations for Turning Point Addiction Campus in Southaven.
Dodd said a majority of those treated for addiction come from Shelby County, many facing similar hurdles.
"They get prescribed pills for pain or something like that and then they can't quit, and so they resort to heroin,” says Dodd.
That’s why Dodd supports the lawsuit on behalf of some Shelby County Commissioners against big pharma.
“Without accountability, nothing is going to change,” says Dodd.
The suit contends “defendants put their desire for profits above the health and well-being of Shelby County consumers at the cost of the plaintiff,” and that opioid cost the county ‘exorbitant amounts’ of money to treat.
Dodd believes if the county wins in court, a legal win could lead to legislative action in how opioids are prescribed.
“It could possibly lead to new laws put into place, to new forms of accountability, that need to be established, to help the opioid epidemic, because it's not to go away unless something changes,” says Dodd.
The lawsuit does not ask for a specific amount in damages. Local 24 reached out to some of the defendants, but have yet to hear back.
Janssen statement about lawsuit:
"Responsibly used opioid-based pain medicines give doctors and patients important choices to help manage the debilitating effects of chronic pain. At the same time, we recognize opioid abuse and addiction is a serious public health issue that must be addressed. We believe the allegations in lawsuits against our company are both legally and factually unfounded. Janssen has acted in the best interests of patients and physicians with regard to its opioid pain medicines, which are FDA-approved and carry FDA-mandated warnings about possible risks on every product label. According to independent surveillance data, Janssen opioid pain medicines consistently have some of the lowest rates of abuse among these medications, and since 2008 the volume of Janssen opioid products always has amounted to less than one percent of the total prescriptions written per year for opioid medications, including generics. Addressing opioid abuse will require collaboration among many stakeholders and we will continue to work with federal, state and local officials to support solutions."
Purdue Pharma: “We are deeply troubled by the opioid crisis and we are dedicated to being part of the solution. As a company grounded in science, we must balance patient access to FDA-approved medicines, while working collaboratively to solve this public health challenge. Although our products account for approximately 2% of the total opioid prescriptions, as a company, we’ve distributed the CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain, developed three of the first four FDA-approved opioid medications with abuse-deterrent properties and partner with law enforcement to ensure access to naloxone. We vigorously deny these allegations and look forward to the opportunity to present our defense.”