Two California Counties Sue Top Five Painkiller Makers

Two California Counties Sue Top Five Painkiller Makers

The several million Americans dependent on narcotic painkillers, along with their families, friends and co-workers, are probably giving a little cheer today at some pretty amazing news. Two California counties, Santa Clara County and Orange County, have launched lawsuits against five of the largest narcotic painkiller pharmaceutical companies in the world. The suit, being brought on behalf of the entire state of California, accuses the painkiller makers of creating the nation's prescription drug epidemic by “waging a campaign of deception" to boost sales of their dangerously addictive painkillers.

Named in the suit are:

  • Actavis
  • Endo Health Solutions Inc.
  • Johnson & Johnson's Janssen Pharmaceuticals
  • Purdue Pharma
  • Teva Pharmaceutical Industries' Cephalon Inc.

The drugs made or marketed by these companies include most popular brand name painkillers such as OxyContin, Percocet, Percodan, Opana, Duragesic and others, along with many generic narcotic painkillers, such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, fentanyl and others. Both Orange and Santa Clara counties say they have been seriously impacted by prescription narcotic overdose deaths, emergency room visits and skyrocketing medical costs. The lawsuit contends that the pharmaceutical companies violated California laws against false advertising, unfair business practices and creating a public nuisance. The LA Times said the 100-page lawsuit uses “sweeping language reminiscent of the legal attack against the tobacco industry." The companies employed tactics similar to those used by the tobacco industry to “conceal their deceptive marketing and conspiratorial behavior.” The suit “alleges the drug companies have reaped blockbuster profits by manipulating doctors into believing the benefits of narcotic painkillers outweighed the risks, despite ‘a wealth of scientific evidence to the contrary’”, the Times said. The lawsuit claims that the drug companies’ marketing practices “opened the floodgates” for such drugs and “the result has been catastrophic.” Patients were encouraged to ask doctors for narcotic painkillers to treat common conditions such as headaches, arthritis and back pain. The drug manufacturers promoted narcotic painkillers as safer than they actually are and promised unproven benefits such as improved sleep and quality of life. Such claims are beyond those allowed by the FDA, the suit says. The result, says the suit, is “a population of addicts” which has led to the explosion in heroin abuse and addiction – the same high at a fraction of the cost of illicit prescription painkillers. The suit also says that in Orange County, there is a painkiller-related death every other day. The county’s district attorney told the Times he sees the suit as a matter of public protection, with the “primary goal to stop the lies about what these drugs do."

No methadone on the list

In what we see as an oversight, the narcotic painkiller methadone is missing from the list of drugs, along with the various companies that manufacture and market methadone. Also known as Amidone, Dolophine, Heptadon, Methadose, Physeptone, Symoron and many other names, methadone is associated with more deaths than any other narcotic painkiller. Deaths linked to methadone have at least quintupled since 1999, primarily from its use as a painkiller. At least some of the responsibility for the methadone catastrophe belongs to doctors who prescribed the drug for pain, without properly cautioning patients about its uniquely dangerous characteristics. Methadone lasts much longer in the body than other opiate painkillers, long after the pain relief has faded. Feeling the return of the pain, patients take more methadone. The result is physical overdose and, all too often, sudden death. But drug companies are also complicit for not ensuring that doctors themselves have been adequately educated about methadone. And we have to say, that responsibility also extends all the way up to the FDA which has allowed this situation to go on for far too long. Meanwhile, methadone’s widespread use as a treatment for opioid addiction has created a new subclass of “legally” drug-dependent Americans.

Unfortunately, many discover, sooner or later, just how tough it can be to get off methadone – even more difficult than the heroin or other narcotic they were previously taking. Even worse, many of these people can become trapped when their daily methadone dosages become higher than average, something that can happen as time passes. The specialized medical methadone detox program they need for high-dose dependence is frequently difficult to find. We’re looking forward to seeing what becomes of the California law suit. As one of the nation’s leading drug detox clinics, Novus Medical Detox Center is on the front lines treating all prescription narcotic painkiller dependencies. And Novus is one of the few detox centers in the country able to accept and successfully treat higher-dosage methadone detox patients. If you or someone you care about is caught in the methadone trap, call us today. We are here to help.

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