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City of Greenville joins in lawsuit against pharmaceutical companies

From the Greenville Advocate

The City of Greenville is joining the ranks of a host of cities and communities across the country that are suing pharmaceutical companies, citing the burden, both human and financial, of the companies’ aggressive marketing and distribution of opioids.

For clarity, opioids are drugs such as oxycodone and morphine, used widely and legally to treat pain.

The lawsuit alleges that pharmaceutical companies’ “marketing of these drugs contributed to the creation of the opioid epidemic, a public health and safety crisis, and as a result of responding to the opioid crisis within its communities the City of Greenville has sustained economic damages and continues to incur a significant financial burden.”

The opioid epidemic is an unparalleled drug problem for reasons somewhat distinct from problems surrounding the illegal opioid heroin.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 80 percent of people who started abusing opioids in the 1960s began with heroin, while 75 percent of those who began in the 2000s reported that their first opioid was through a prescription.

In this case, the drug dealers are not unscrupulous individuals on street corners, selling to the hopelessly addicted and destitute, but executives in suits helming the most powerful drug companies in the country.

The U.S. Center for Disease Control lists Alabama as having the highest prescribing rates of opioids in 2016, with a rate of 121.0 prescriptions per 100 persons.

Butler County has a prescribing rate of 135.4 per 100 persons.

Alabama also has the second-highest rate of nonmedical use of opioids, corresponding to “one out of every 19 Alabamians aged 12 or older.”

The CDC also asserts, in data obtained through a national survey, that opioids are most often procured by non-medical users for free through friends or relatives, with the second highest level being through prescriptions.

Coupled with the vast prescription rate in Alabama, this data paints a relatively clear picture of how this epidemic has unfolded.

The National Drug Institute estimates that 2.1 million Americans “suffer from substance use disorders related to prescription opioid pain relievers” in data from 2012.

Furthermore, the CDC notes that prescription painkiller overdoses “kill more Americans than heroin and cocaine combined.”

The lawsuit treads ground similar to complaints filed all over the country by cities, towns, and counties of all sizes and demographics that allege illegal and unethical behavior by pharmaceutical companies.

A copy of the complaint, provided by Beasley Allen, states “the manufacturers aggressively pushed highly addictive, dangerous opioids, falsely representing to doctors that patients would only rarely succumb to drug addiction” and “persuaded doctors to prescribe highly addictive, dangerous opioids, turning patients into drug addicts for their own corporate profit.”

The named pharmaceutical companies are essentially accused of marketing and distributing some of the most addictive drugs on the planet with few ethical bounds, garnering massive profits by fostering addiction and dependence. 

Information regarding the defendants in the lawsuit can be found on Beasley Allen’s website, and the complaint itself is filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama, under case number 2:17-CV-836.