B&R partner Jennifer A. King recently presented at a forensic toxicology seminar hosted by the American College of Medical Toxicology regarding Opioids in Civil Proceedings. One topic she discussed is the growing number of lawsuits across the country based on claims that pharmaceutical manufactures conspired to “flood the streets” with prescription opioids. These lawsuits allege a concerted effort between opioid manufacturers, opioid distributors, and physician key-opinion leaders caused the modern day opioid epidemic.
In response to this opioid crisis, over 1200 lawsuits filed by states, cities, municipalities, and private individuals have been consolidated in one of the largest federal multi-district litigation waves in history. These cases allege the same collective group of defendants, including pharmaceutical manufacturers like Johnson & Johnson and distributors like McKesson Corporation, caused today’s opioid epidemic by misleading the public about the benefits of opioids, and concealing the dangerous qualities of opioids, harkening back to the class action tobacco litigation of the 1990s.
Although these class action lawsuits are currently targeting opioid manufacturers and distributors, one possible consequence is the next wave of opioid litigation will target the physicians and hospitals where these practices occurred. For example, in Missouri, a jury awarded nearly $17 million in a case where the jury found a physician and hospital over-prescribed a patient opioids. Currently, cases targeting “high volume” prescribers like the one Missouri are not typical; however, the opioid epidemic is being used in cases involving the administration of opioids to underscore the “danger” of these drugs and the need for hospitals, nurses, and physicians to be diligent in monitoring and assessing these patients. Thus, it is advisable physicians, hospitals, and clinics in Texas—especially pain management doctors and clinics—should start implementing certain evidence-based practices now in anticipation of possible, future litigation.