I have several relatives and friends whose lives have been ruined by the opioid crisis. One close family member overdosed and died from his addiction. Where is the state of North Carolina in addressing this in the judicial system? What is the state of North Carolina doing about the problem?
– Concerned for Carolina
I am so sorry to hear the epidemic has had such a traumatic impact on you and your family. The opioid epidemic has ravaged families across North Carolina. Opioids are extremely addictive painkillers that come in many forms. They include Oxycontin, hydrocodone (Vicodin), morphine, and methadone, plus illegal drugs such as heroin. Like all drugs, opioids are known to cause mild side effects. But they are more notorious for the serious and sometimes deadly effects of: addiction, withdrawal, breathing problems, heart problems, overdose, and even death.
In 2017, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declared a public health emergency over the opioid crisis. Over 47,000 Americans died from legal and illegal opioid overdoses in 2017, according to the CDC; 130 Americans die every day from opioid overdoses.
State public health services have been overwhelmed in the process of trying to address the opioid crisis. In fact, this is a core issue for many of the lawsuits that have been filed against drug companies responsible for manufacturing opioids. Government plaintiffs have argued that their resources have been pushed to the breaking point, and they are left unable to treat victims and combat addiction.
In 2018, North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein filed a lawsuit against one of those drug companies, Purdue Pharma. Among other things, the lawsuit alleged that Purdue engaged in deceptive and misleading marketing of opioids that downplayed the seriousness of the side effects. The pharmaceutical company is also accused of falsely stating that there are no dosage limits to their opioids, despite concerns raised by doctors. Finally, the company is said to have targeted vulnerable populations, such as veterans and senior citizens, in their aggressive push for corporate profits.
In September of 2019, the State also brought suit against the family that owns Purdue, the Sacklers. The lawsuit argues that the family directed Purdue’s deceptive marketing efforts while profiting to the tune of billions of dollars. For their part, the Sackler family has denied wrongdoing.
States that have sued the company are demanding compensation for programs to combat the crisis, such as addiction and overdose treatment, drug courts, and rehabilitation programs. Purdue is currently in bankruptcy court and is attempting a settlement to resolve thousands of pending lawsuits. That deal would include remaking the company as a “public benefit trust” with profits from it pharmaceutical sales going to treat victims.
But North Carolina, and several other states, have rejected the proposed settlement. These states believe the settlement would not provide enough money and would not adequately hold the Sackler family responsible. For now, the lawsuits continue, and they could drag out for years.
If you have questions about the lawsuit and what the state is demanding, contact the North Carolina Attorney General’s Office. Be sure to get your family members and friends the professional treatment they need. Hopefully a resolution – through trial or through settlement – will help save lives and prevent even more from falling victim to this deadly crisis.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is general in nature and not to be taken as legal advice, nor to establish an attorney-client relationship between the reader and Laura H. Budd or Weaver | Budd, Attorneys at Law. Submit your questions for The Fine Print to: email@example.com