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Chicago Files Lawsuit Against Makers of Opioid Painkillers


June 3, 2014 — Five major pharmaceutical companies have been hit with a lawsuit filed by the city of Chicago. Mayor Rahm Emanual is seeking $9.5 million in damages for costs of filling prescriptions for opioid painkillers, such as OxyContin and Percocet.

Lawyers accuse drug-makers of using aggressive tactics to push the drugs on people with chronic pain while downplaying risks like addiction, overdose, and abuse.

According to a statement from the Mayor’s Press Office, a 2008 investigation discovered that 87% of all opioids dispensed were for patients with chronic pain on a long-term basis, although there is no scientific evidence supporting long-term use of opioid painkillers for non-cancer pain.

The mayor accused drug-makers of spending millions of dollars to convince doctors and front groups to promote opioids for chronic pain management. Lawyers also charge drug-makers with deceptively marketing opioid painkillers as rarely addictive in order to boost profits.

The mayor stated:

“For years, big pharma has deceived the public about the true risks and benefits of highly potent and highly addictive painkillers in order to expand their customer base and increase their bottom line. This has led to a dramatic rise in drug addiction, overdose and diversion in communities across the nation, and Chicago is not immune to this epidemic.”

Firms named in the lawsuit include:

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

This is not the first time drug-makers have come under scrutiny for marketing of opioids. Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of OxyContin, agreed to pay $634 million to resolve civil and criminal charges filed by the U.S. Department of Justice in 2007. The settlement agreement resolved charges that Purdue used aggressive tactics to mislead doctors, regulators, and patients about the dangers of OxyContin.

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