After decades of increasing opioid related deaths correlating with increasing pharmaceutical profits, opioid manufacturers are only beginning to be held accountable for their role in the nation’s opioid epidemic. The efforts by big opioid manufacturers to shift the blame onto doctors only exposes their unwillingness to accept any amount of responsibility for the opioid epidemic they created and promoted.

The counties of Los Angeles, Santa Clara, Orange County, and Oakland began trial on Monday pursuing claims against four companies including Johnson & Johnson, Teva Pharmaceuticals, Endo International Plc, and Allergan. If the companies are held liable, they could have to pay over $50 billion to cover the cost of subsiding the epidemic. Financial compensation from companies won’t ever replace the lives of whom their products have taken or the families it has broken but it will be a start in fighting back against the epidemic.

The counties claim that the four companies played down the addictive risk of the drugs by using misleading and deceptive marketing in order to make a monetary profit. The company’s defense counters the blame onto doctors, claiming they were warned about the risks. Teva’s lawyer, Collie James, says, “You won’t hear from a single doctor who was ever misled.”

Whether or not the doctor’s are also to blame, the companies themselves have to be held accountable for allowing their drugs to have caused chemical dependency, addiction, and over 500,000 deaths since 1999 from opioid overdoses.

This is only the second case to have gone to trial among thousands of pending lawsuits nationally aiming to hold opioid companies accountable for the opioid crisis. The first case was a landmark trial resulting in Johnson & Johnson being the first opioid manufacturer to have to pay the state of Oklahoma a $572 million judgment for the opioid epidemic, which they are appealing. Even after being held legally accountable for their role in the epidemic, they still believe they are innocent.

Oklahoma argued in the trial that over the course of 11 years, Johnson & Johnson sales associates had made over 150,00 trips to doctors in the state, with added emphasis on the high-volume prescribers. Oklahoma was pursuing a judgment of $17 billion but they were only awarded $572 million, significantly less than what they received. What determines how much the companies should pay? How do communities determine the amount of money needed to make a significant difference in the epidemic?

It’s really indisputable that opioid manufacturers play a role in the opioid epidemic because they create it and know more about it than anybody else. The discussion that is left to be decided is how much monetary accountability each and every company involved should have to pay.

Another discussion that should be emphasized is holding the states and counties that receive financial compensation accountable for using the funds properly and effectively for their intended purpose.

Hopefully, by holding opioid manufacturers responsible and ensuring financial settlements, the opioid crisis can be combated through effective resources and programs.

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