Hagens Berman was hired to assist California governmental entities in a case against five large pharmaceutical manufacturers including Purdue Pharma, Cephalon, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Endo Health Solutions and Actavis charging that the companies deceived physicians and consumers about the dangers of prescription painkillers.
The suit filed on May 21, 2014 alleges that the pharma companies engaged in tactics to prolong use of opioids despite knowing that opioids were too addictive and debilitating for long-term use for chronic non-cancer pain.
The suit states that one tactic used by defendants was to tout the broader use of opioids to physicians by finding – and hiring – other physicians to write papers and speak at events. At the same time, the complaint states, the drug companies mounted a campaign encouraging patients, including the elderly, to ask their doctors for the painkillers to treat common conditions such as back pain, arthritis and headaches.
"In order to expand the market for opioids and realize blockbuster profits, Defendants needed to create a sea-change in medical and public perception that would permit the use of opioids for long periods of time to treat more common aches and pains, like lower back pain, arthritis, and headache," the suit states. "Opioid makers Purdue, Janssen, Endo, Cephalon, and Actavis, through a common, sophisticated, and deeply deceptive marketing campaign that continues to the present, set out to, and did, reverse the popular and medical understanding of opioids."
The National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported that the number of first-time abusers of prescription opioids increased from 628,000 in 1990 to 2.4 million in 2004, that emergency room visits involving prescription opioid abuse increased by 45 percent from 2000 to 2002 and that treatment admissions for primary abuse of prescription opioids increased by 186 percent between 1997 and 2002.
Opioid overdoses now account for more deaths in the U.S. than car crashes, cocaine, heroin and suicides combined.