Philadelphia may be the sixth largest city in the nation, but it has the highest opioid overdose rate of all large cities in the United States. And, earlier this month, it took action against several companies for their roles in fueling what it believes has become a “public health nightmare.”
In a 160-page lawsuit filed in the Philadelphia Common Pleas Court, the City accuses a number of opioid manufacturers of using misleading marketing methods to push their products onto an unassuming public. These methods have, in turn, taken a bad situation, made it worse, and ultimately left the city holding the bill. The main purpose of the Philadelphia lawsuit is to recoup some of those costs; including the money it has spent in the treatment of addicts.
The city’s lawsuit sheds light on some incredibly sobering statistics. While only 4.6 percent of the global population, Americans account for 80% of overall opioid consumption. That consumption quadrupled from 1999 to 2010. By the end of that period, enough opioid prescriptions were being written – some 254 million – to keep every American adult fully medicated on opioids 24 hours a day, seven days a week for a full month.
A survey conducted by the CIty of Philadelphia last year shows a population that is fully entrenched in the opioid epidemic. One-third of the city’s approximately 1.5 million people was estimated to have used a prescription opioid in the past 12 months. Only 19 percent of those had obtained the pills through means other than their health care provider.
The city believes that it can provide numerous examples of cases of drug companies misleading the public over the safety of their drugs. Examples include the use of “front groups,” as well having “commissioned, edited, and arranged for the placement of misleading favorable articles in academic journals.”
“This epidemic can be traced back to the defendants’ false and deceptive marketing to doctors and the public that these drugs are safe and effective for the daily treatment of long-term chronic pain,” says CIty Solicitor Sozi Pedro Tulante. Tulante clarifies that while the lawsuit is not meant to “demonize” the healthcare industry or the drug manufacturers operating within it, there was a desire to “follow the facts and see if there was any violations of law.”
The pharmaceutical companies named in the suit include Allergan, Cephalon, Teva Pharmaceuticals, Endo Health Solutions and Endo Pharmaceuticals, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Johnson & Johnson, Purdue Pharmaceuticals LP, Purdue Pharmaceuticals Inc., and Purdue Frederick Co. Inc.