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Big Pharma responds to class action opioid lawsuit

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Some of the defendants are commenting on a class action lawsuit against major pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors.

A Mobile health care group is among the plaintiffs and a Mobile law firm is on the legal team representing the hospitals.

The lawsuit claims Big Pharma worked together to trick doctors into prescribing more opioids and to skirt federal laws designed to keep painkillers off the black market.

Purdue Pharma, one of the defendants, told NBC 15:

“We are deeply troubled by the opioid crisis and we are dedicated to being part of the solution. As a company grounded in science, we must balance patient access to FDA-approved medicines, while working collaboratively to solve this public health challenge. Although our products account for approximately 2% of the total opioid prescriptions, as a company, we’ve distributed the CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain, developed three of the first four FDA-approved opioid medications with abuse-deterrent properties and partner with law enforcement to ensure access to naloxone. We vigorously deny these allegations and look forward to the opportunity to present our defense.”

William Foster, a spokesperson for Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc. had this to say about the allegations:

Responsibly used opioid-based pain medicines give doctors and patients important choices to help manage the debilitating effects of chronic pain. At the same time, we recognize opioid abuse and addiction is a serious public health issue that must be addressed. We believe the allegations in lawsuits against our company are both legally and factually unfounded. Janssen has acted in the best interests of patients and physicians with regard to its opioid pain medicines, which are FDA-approved and carry FDA-mandated warnings about possible risks on every product label. According to independent surveillance data, Janssen opioid pain medicines consistently have some of the lowest rates of abuse among these medications, and since 2008 the volume of Janssen opioid products always has amounted to less than one percent of the total prescriptions written per year for opioid medications, including generics. Addressing opioid abuse will require collaboration among many stakeholders and we will continue to work with federal, state and local officials to support solutions.

Allergan released the following statement:

“It is important to put into perspective Allergan’s role regarding opioids. Allergan’s two branded opioid products – Norco and Kadian – account for less than 0.08% of all opioid products prescribed in 2016 in the U.S. These products came to Allergan through legacy acquisitions and have not been promoted since 2012, in the case of Kadian, and since 2003, in the case of Norco. Allergan has a history of supporting -- and continues to support -- the safe, responsible use of prescription medications. This includes opioid medications, which when sold, prescribed and used responsibly, play an appropriate role in pain relief for millions of Americans.”

"Additionally, please note that in August 2016 Allergan sold its global Generics business, which included Watson and Actavis, to Teva. Please direct any comment regarding these businesses and their products to Teva."

Endo International released this comment on the lawsuit:

Endo is dedicated to providing safe, quality products to patients in need and we share the public concern regarding opioid abuse and misuse. We are committed to working collaboratively to develop and implement a comprehensive solution to the opioid crisis, which is a complex problem with several causes that are difficult to disentangle. Any serious solution must therefore be multifaceted and consider, among other things, the legitimate access needs of the millions of patients suffering from acute or chronic pain who rely on opioids to improve their quality of life.

Toward that goal, Endo has taken meaningful action during the past year by voluntarily ceasing opioid promotion and eliminating its entire product salesforce. Endo also voluntarily withdrew Opana® ER from the market following FDA’s request despite having a statutory right to challenge that request, implemented additional anti-diversion measures and terminated its new opioid product development programs.

It is Endo's policy not to comment on current litigation. That said, we deny the allegations contained in this lawsuit and intend to vigorously defend the Company.

The Healthcare Distribution Alliance, a trade group whose members include defendants AmeriSource Bergen, Cardinal Health, and McKesson, sent NBC 15 this statement attributed to the organization's Senior Vice President John Parker:

As distributors, we understand the tragic impact the opioid epidemic has on communities across the country. We are deeply engaged in the issue and are taking our own steps to be part of the solution – but we aren’t willing to be scapegoats.

Distributors are logistics companies that arrange for the safe and secure storage, transport, and delivery of medicines from manufacturers to pharmacies, hospitals, long-term care facilities, and others based on prescriptions from licensed physicians. We don’t make medicines, market medicines, prescribe medicines, or dispense them to consumers.

Given our role, the idea that distributors are solely responsible for the number of opioid prescriptions written defies common sense and lacks understanding of how the pharmaceutical supply chain actually works and how it is regulated.

We are ready to have a serious conversation about solving a complex problem and are eager to work with political leaders and all stakeholders in finding forward-looking solutions.

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