The opioid epidemic has America worried. After all, we need powerful pain medications for powerful pain. Unfortunately, the opioids that provide relief are ruining lives.
Now, the state of Alabama has decided Purdue Pharma needs to pay. The state filed a lawsuit against the pharmaceutical company on Tuesday, alleging the company is responsible for the opioid epidemic. Alabama now joins at least 13 other states in their quest to sue “Big Pharma”:
“Purdue knew, and has known for years, that, except as a last resort, opioids were addictive and subject to abuse — particularly when used long-term for chronic pain. Purdue further knew, and has known for years, that with prolonged use, the effectiveness of opioids wanes, requiring increases in doses and markedly enhancing the risk of significant side effects and addiction,” the lawsuit read.
That is true. Purdue has known that for years. So has every other pharmaceutical company and medical provider, and most patients.
I know this because it was a topic of discussion when I attended the United States Navy’s pharmacy technician school in 1994. Little has changed on that front in the last 24 years, nor was it breaking news for some time prior to me going through the training.
In fact, the federal government was well aware of this situation. That’s why there are such stringent controls in place on how these medications are handled.
Look, I get that states are looking for something to do to combat this problem. The opioid epidemic isn’t a good thing by any stretch of the imagination, but suing pharmaceutical companies because some people misuse their products is like suing Glock because a shooter used one of their guns, or Toyota because of drunk drivers.
Absent evidence that these companies are circumventing the laws and regulations in place regarding these medications, lawsuits like Alabama’s need to go nowhere. Otherwise, we’re likely to see more lawsuits claiming companies are responsible for the misuse of their products, and that’s a slippery road no one should want to go down.
If Purdue — not that they are being accused of this — falsified research findings, or similar? Blast them. If they’re breaking the law, punish them for that.
But if Purdue did all they were required to do, lawsuits like this will do less than nothing to combat the real problem. They’ll drive up the prices of much-needed medicines. They’ll make it too risky for companies to do research and development on new drugs to treat chronic pain.
The politicians making these decisions never think that far ahead. They just want to be seen doing “something.”