Have you, a loved one or your community been the victim of the opioid epidemic in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire or Maine? If so you may be able to seek legal recourse by filing a lawsuit against the pharmaceutical companies extensive experience in defective medical device and pharmaceutical injury litigation. Not only do we handle cases for individual clients, we also handle various multi-district litigation (MDL) cases. It is entirely possible to file an opioid lawsuit on your behalf or on behalf of your loved one. For more information about how we can help your case, please give us a call immediately. You can also visit, listen to and download our Massachusetts Lawyers podcast here.
The Opioid Epidemic In The United States
Our country has been dealing with a growing substance abuse and addiction epidemic for the past two decades, as well as an increase in drug overdose deaths and opioid lawsuit cases. Statistically over 1,300 people die from opioid overdoses weekly in the U.S.A.. This number has risen dramatically across the country in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, millions more Americans are currently addicted to opioids. The situation has spiraled to the point where it is a burden on the economy and a national security threat. Opioid abuse and addiction, which includes prescription pain medications, heroin, and synthetic opioids like fentanyl, is a national epidemic that negatively impacts public health, as well as social and economic welfare.
Origins Of The Opioid Epidemic
Prior to the 1980s, prescription opioids were largely used for short-term pain and chronic pain associated with cancer and the end of life. Multiple journal articles published in the 80s proclaiming opioids were an effective painkiller with a low risk of addiction, were followed by health professionals being urged to better recognize and treat pain.
As a result, the medical community reframed pain from a symptom to a vital measurement doctors could quantify and treat. This made way for the introduction of prescription narcotics. Subsequently, the use of painkillers increased and pharmaceutical companies began launching and aggressively marketing new medications.
Many people became hooked on opioids after getting a prescription from their doctor. Painkillers’ highly addictive nature makes it easy for the human brain to want more. Many people don’t know that they’ve become reliant on the effects of opioids to function regularly until their prescription runs out.
This is often the point where an addicted person begins buying and abusing illegal drugs. Prescription opioids are expensive, so many users resort to heroin because it’s cheaper, stronger, and easier to find. As a matter of fact, approximately 80% of those using heroin began with a prescription for another opioid.
Common Types of Opioids
Opioids are drugs that bind to opioid receptors to block or lessen pain. Opioids are classified into two categories: prescription pharmaceuticals and illegal narcotics. Opioids such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, and morphine are routinely prescribed to relieve pain, whereas methadone is largely utilized in addiction treatment clinics to help patients overcome their opioid addiction.
Increasingly popular in recent years are synthetic opioids like fentanyl, which the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) believes is “mainly responsible for driving the present opioid crisis.” This is because it is cheaper and up to fifty times more lethal than heroin.
How The Opioid Epidemic Is Different From Other Drug Problems
The number of people dying of opioid overdose outnumber all other drug overdose deaths combined. This is why the phrase “opioid epidemic” was coined. These aren’t people who are addicted to heroin or other illegal substances. These are persons who became addicted to medication prescribed by their doctor.
The rise in opioid deaths can be placed on three timelines: the first wave in the 1990s included overdose deaths from prescription opioids and was characterized by an increase in the number of opioid prescriptions written by physicians, then the second wave of heroin use and deaths beginning in 2010 – this resulted from efforts to reduce opioid prescribing, as well as the diversion of opioids onto the streets, and the third wave in 2013 with overdoses occurring from synthetic opioids like fentanyl. The third wave is ongoing and coincides with policies aimed at harm reduction such as syringe exchange programs and addiction treatment programs covered by insurance.
How Does the Opioid Crisis Hurt the Public?
The rates of Hepatitis C, HIV, and other bloodborne diseases are rising and wreaking havoc on the public because of the practice of sharing needles. If expectant mothers use opioids, their baby may develop an addiction, also known as neonatal abstinence syndrome (withdrawal symptoms experienced by newborns exposed to drugs in the womb).
Opioids have also taken a toll on the economy directly, causing significant damage via lost spending, wages and productivity, and indirectly from lower employment and other trickle down effects. As a result, the misuse of opioids is estimated to cost the U.S. more than $500 billion each year and includes lost productivity and increased social services, health-care costs, criminal justice intervention and burden on judicial resources, and substance-abuse treatment and rehabilitation.
Financial Strain – The projected financial impact of opioid addiction varies. Some studies estimate from $10,000 to $30,000 per individual – this number is just the healthcare costs of addiction treatment, not the total cost of the addiction. Financial responsibilities on hospitals, municipalities, counties, and states also increased.
Job Loss – Unemployment and addiction frequently go together. It’s unclear whether unemployment or addiction triggers the other. Addicts who don’t have a job may be left without financial support or health insurance, potentially leading to a more advanced addiction.
Strained Relationships – Relationships, as with any addiction, can be damaged or lost over time. The loss of friends and family may also keep an addicted person from seeking treatment. Addiction can be grounds for divorce or loss of child custody in more serious cases.
Other Health Issues – Opioid addiction can lead to multiple health problems, including HIV/AIDS, mental disorders, infections, organ damage, and seizures. Some of these health conditions may be curable or reversible after the drug use stops. However, long-term health consequences are possible.
Who Can File Opioid Lawsuits?
Many opioid users and communities affected by the crisis are filing opioid lawsuits against doctors, pharmacists, and drug wholesalers. These lawsuits allege that doctors, drug corporations, and “pill mills” took advantage of patients and got them hooked, costing individuals and states millions in medical, legal enforcement, and other costs.
Which States Have Filed Opioid Lawsuits?
A total of 49 states plus Washington D.C. and other U.S. territories have filed opioid lawsuits, accusing prescription opioid maker, Purdue Pharma, of contributing to the nationwide opioid crisis. Oklahoma reached a settlement with Purdue Pharma in 2019. Johnson & Johnson was also ordered to pay more than $570 million to the state of Oklahoma.
Who Can File an Opioid Lawsuit?
Not everyone who was prescribed opioids or painkillers can claim to be a victim in an opioid lawsuit. However, there are instances when a person was over prescribed opioids by his/her physician, which led to an addiction that could have been avoided.
Some of the determining factors of who can claim to be a victim are:
- A loved one died due to an opioid overdose.
- You or a loved one were hospitalized due to an opioid overdose.
- The claimant suffered injuries as a direct result of the opioids he/she was prescribed and taking at the time of the incident.
Opioid lawsuits on behalf of individuals are looking to recoup costs related to drug rehabilitation costs, possible funeral expenses, medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. There is a possibility a court could award punitive damages if it is determined that drug manufacturers knowingly misled consumers on the dangers and addictiveness of opioid painkillers.
Who Is Liable in an Opioid Lawsuit?
Manufacturers and distributors aren’t the only ones facing lawsuits over opioids. Depending on the circumstances, multiple defendants may be found accountable for damages or wrongful death. The sheer number of people who have died as a result of prescription and illegal opioid addiction has spurred action at all levels of government and in numerous courts across the country.
Defendants in opioid litigation can include:
- Opioid manufacturers
- Opioid distributors
- Individual physicians and other drug prescribers
- Nationwide drug store chains such as CostCo, BJ’s, CVS, Walgreens, and others
- Company shareholders
- Policy benefit managers
Damages In Opioid Lawsuits
For the most part victims of opioid addiction may be able to recover the following types of damages:
- Hospital bills
- Treatment and therapy costs
- Medical transportation costs
- Costs of opiate addiction and overdose treatment
- Lost wages from not being able to work due to opioid abuse
- Physical pain and mental discomfort, such as diminished quality of life
- Funeral and burial costs for those who lost someone to an opioid overdose
- Survival actions and benefits
Once you schedule your free initial consultation with our team of addiction lawyers handling opioid claims throughout New England you will know the full dollar amount of your opioid claim.
Contact New England Opioid Lawsuit Attorney
The companies that manufacture and distribute opioids are facing a barrage of lawsuits for the injuries and deaths their products have caused nationwide as the worst drug epidemic in U.S. history continues to escalate. If you or a loved one has been injured or killed by one of these addictive and dangerous opioids, contact our NE injury attorneys. They possess decades of experience successfully prosecuting large pharmaceutical companies on behalf of our clients. Call or email our Massachusetts opioid lawsuit attorneys today. We represent individuals as well as cities, town and municipalities nationwide who have been injured by prescription opioids and other pharmaceuticals.