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Wisconsin lawsuit blames drug makers for opioid crisis

Posted: 11:35 AM, Nov 07, 2017
Updated: 2017-11-08 00:08:43Z
WI lawsuit blames drug makers for opioid crisis

WEST BEND -- A deadly trend in Wisconsin now has 28 counties fighting back with a lawsuit.

The counties blame big pharmaceutical companies for deceptive practices when it comes to long-term use of painkillers.

The lawsuit lays out accusations that the companies gave doctors fraudulent marketing that stated prescription opioid painkillers were safe for long-term use.

"Front groups titled 'The American Family of Pain Management' and different things that sound like they were doing scientific studies, when really this is just unbranded marketing materials put out and sponsored by the pharmaceutical companies," said Erin Dickinson, Lawyer.

Milwaukee County unanimously adopted a proposal to prepare for lawsuits to pay for the ongoing epidemic, and will interview law firms next week.

There were swift responses from pharmaceutical companies named in this suit.

Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceuticals replied:

"We have yet to receive the Counties’ complaint. However, we believe the allegations in similar 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.
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.  Addressing opioid abuse will require collaboration among many stakeholders and we will continue to work with federal, state and local officials to support solutions."

Teva Pharmaceuticals, which also owns Cephalon replied:

"Teva is committed to the appropriate use of opioid medicines, and we recognize the critical public health issues impacting communities across the U.S. as a result of illegal drug use as well as the misuse and abuse of opioids that are available legally by prescription. To that end, we take a multi-faceted approach to this complex issue;  we work to educate communities and healthcare providers on appropriate medicine use and prescribing, we comply closely with all relevant federal and state regulations regarding these medicines, and, through our R&D pipeline, we are developing non-opioid treatments that have the potential to bring relief to patients in chronic pain. Teva offers extensive resources for prescribers, patients and pharmacists regarding the responsible pain management and prevention of prescription drug abuse. Teva also collaborates closely with other stakeholders, including providers and prescribers, regulators, public health officials and patient advocates, to understand how to prevent prescription drug abuse without sacrificing patients’ needed access to pain medicine."

Purdue Pharma said:

“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 the first FDA-approved opioid medication 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.”

Endo Pharmaceuticals told TODAY'S TMJ4:

"At Endo, our top priorities include patient safety and ensuring that patients with chronic pain have access to safe and effective therapeutic options. We share in the FDA’s goal of appropriately supporting the needs of patients with chronic pain while preventing misuse and diversion of opioid products.
It is Endo's policy not to comment on current litigation."