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San Francisco Sues Pharma for Opioid Epidemic

By Lisa M. Schaffer, Esq. | Last updated on

The City and County of San Francisco has joined the host of other cities around the country suing big pharma for the opioid epidemic in federal court. Years ago, opioids would only be prescribed for severe post-surgery or end-of-life pain relief. But a major change in medical education by opioid manufacturers lowered that bar considerably a decade ago. And now, according to San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera, local citizens are dying by the thousands.

San Francisco Sues Big Pharma Big Time

San Francisco and numerous other governmental entities have filed suit against opioid manufacturers and wholesalers, blaming them for America's opioid crisis. According to plaintiffs in all of these cases, these parties deliberately misled doctors and the general public about the dangers and high addiction rate of powerful painkillers to relieve chronic pain in order to sell more pills and increase corporate profits. Specifically, in his suit against Purdue Pharma, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Endo Pharmaceuticals, Cephalon, Insys Therapeutics, Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals, and Actavis, Herrera and his team allege:

  • Public nuisance of behalf of the State of California
  • Public nuisance on behalf of the city and county of San Francisco
  • Violations of California's Unfair Competition law
  • Violation of False Advertising
  • Violation of Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) Act
  • Negligence
  • Negligent misrepresentation
  • Fraudulent concealment

Rise in Opioid Prescriptions Tied to Increase in Street Drug Overdoses

In San Francisco, over 318,000 opioid prescriptions were written last year, which translates to about one in every three San Francisco residents. It is believed that when addicts lose access to prescriptive opioids, they turn to street drugs like heroin and fentanyl.

According to city officials, the use of injection drugs, like heroin, have risen by around 275 percent between 2005 and 2016. Of the over 72,000 drug-related deaths in the U.S. last year, nearly 30,000 were attributed to the drug fentanyl and other synthetic opioids. Though the rise in overdose deaths primarily involve illegal opioids, medical and legal experts firmly believe that the current opioid crisis is connected to the rise of legally prescribed medications. And for this, many want big pharma to pay. Indeed, over a thousand such suits have been filed by governmental entities and individuals alike. And undoubtedly, many more are yet to come.

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