ST. LOUIS — Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley is attempting to tackle the opioid crisis with a lawsuit that he filed today in the Circuit Court of St. Louis City.
Hawley is suing Purdue Pharma, Endo Health Solutions and Janssen Pharmaceuticals for the companies’ fraudulent misrepresentation of the serious risks posed by the drugs they manufacture and sell, according to a press release from the attorney general’s office.
“Our state faces an urgent public-health crisis brought on by fraud. These companies have profited from the suffering of Missourians,” said Hawley, “Today, we begin to fight to put an end to this crisis as we fight for the thousands of lives endangered and lost to the opioid epidemic.”
The drug companies named in the lawsuit carried out a calculated and multi-year plan which aimed to deliberately misrepresent the addictive risks of opioids. The result was thousands of patients being prescribed unnecessary opioids, often to treat chronic pain.
In 2012, physicians wrote nearly 259 million prescriptions for opioids in the United States, 10 million more prescriptions than there are adults in the country.
“I was given an opioid prescription I never should have been given,” said a former opioid addict, Eddie Bunnell, “Now I’m speaking out about my addiction to show other addicts that they’re not alone. I care; Josh Hawley cares; and Missouri cares.”
The civil action filed today by the attorney general hopes to hold the drug manufacturing companies accountable for their conscious falsification of the addictive nature of opioids.
The public health crisis caused by over-prescribing opioids has come at a high expense for Missouri. The State has paid millions of dollars, mostly through the State’s MO Healthnet Medicaid program, for opioid prescriptions and for the treatment of opioid addictions.
The lawsuit seeks hundreds of millions of dollars in damages from the drug companies and hundreds of millions more in civil penalties.
However, addressing the crisis is about more than just saving the State money. Hawley also hopes to begin the healing process for families and communities that have suffered from the opioid crisis. Each year, hundreds of Missourians die from opioid overdoses, while thousands are hospitalized or require emergency treatment.
In 2015 alone, there were more than 30,000 hospitalizations and emergency room visits in Missouri because of opioids, a 200% increase over the last decade. Another 500 Missourians died from opioid-related overdoses while another 300 died from heroin overdoses, a drug commonly associated with opioid abuse.
“I lost my daughter to the opioid epidemic three years ago,” said Jammie Fabick, “for the sake of my daughter and all the other lives lost, we have to put a stop to this epidemic.”
The opioid death rate in Missouri is 160% of the national average and is continuing to rise.
“Today’s suit is about seeking justice for the victims of this epidemic and their families,” Hawley said, “But it is also about the beginning of building a healthier Missouri and giving those ravaged by this scourge the opportunity to heal.”