Your recent Advocate editorial stated: "The war against opioid addiction promises to be a long and costly one. It should be waged on behalf of the public, not the profiteers." The real profiteers are the drug manufacturers and distributors who grossed billions of dollars annually through many fraudulent and deceptive practices.
The federal government has determined that they misled doctors and the public about the benefits these opioid drugs would provide, while hiding the very real risks of addiction. Responsible parties admitted that independent medical experts never said opioid-based acute pain meds for cancer patients or end-of-life pain could be used for long-term pain control in other conditions. Purdue Pharmaceuticals knew OxyContin did not provide 12 hours of pain relief. Since the 1990s, every graduating med student and family doctors were schooled in treating patient pain from any source with opioids. Firms told doctors there was no dose limit for prescribing opioids to all pain patients.
Meanwhile, Louisiana had a 14 percent increase in overdose deaths from January 2016-2017. One-third of all children now go into foster care because of unwanted opioid addiction by their parents. Thus, those who sought to profit from an opioid-addicted America have already done so. A federal judge in Ohio where many cases will be reviewed, settled and/or tried stated the legislative and executive branches failed the American people, so finding a solution falls to the courts.
The medical industry and the legal community must come together to make sure that those responsible — and not the taxpayer — provide the funds to stop and treat the crisis threatening an entire generation of Americans. Money obtained from court proceedings should go to counseling programs, opioid baby birthing centers, foster care, law enforcement and other community programs dealing with the biggest public health emergency since the 1918 flu pandemic. That is why we both have become involved in holding the pharmaceutical industry to account — I as a professional litigator, and Dr. Bell as a medical expert involved in litigation against the industry. We both work with Opioid Justice Now, a group of attorneys and medical professionals helping others pursue opioid-related legal claims. America’s parishes/counties, cities, hospitals, babies and others are suffering massive damages from this industry-inflicted wound.
Medical experts and attorneys like us, from across party lines, are united in obtaining the oversight, money and monitoring needed to address this problem.
Stuart H. Smith
Opioid Justice Now