The Opioid Crisis has claimed the lives of over 400,000 Americans, almost as many Americans as were killed during World War II. The similarities don’t stop there. Like WWII, the Opioid Crisis is an existential threat to the American way of life. It has impacted families in a way that is blind to status, race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age, or any other classification. It has ravaged communities, large and small. And, if you’re reading this, you probably already know this because it has impacted you or a loved one in a profound way.
A History of Deception
Historically, opioids were considered too addictive and debilitating for the treatment of chronic pain such as back pain, migraines, and arthritis. Opioids also tend to induce tolerance, whereby a person who uses opioids repeatedly over time no longer responds to the drug as strongly as before, thus requiring a higher dose to achieve the same effect. Before the 1990s, generally accepted standards of medical practice dictated that opioids should only be used short-term for acute pain, pain relating to recovery from surgery, or for cancer or palliative (end-of-life) care. As a result, doctors generally did not prescribe opioids for chronic pain.
The market for chronic pain patients, however, was much larger than acute pain patients. To take advantage of it, the industry had to change doctors’ general reluctance to prescribe opioids for chronic pain. Opioid sellers engaged in conduct that directly caused doctors to prescribe skyrocketing amounts of opioids. Opioid sellers intentionally neglected their obligations to prevent diversion of the highly addictive substance.
As a result, the number of opioid prescriptions increased sharply, reaching nearly 250 million prescriptions in 2013, which was almost enough for every person in the United States to have a bottle of pills. This represents an increase of 300% since 1999. The carnage resulting from this callous disregard for the safety of Americans is staggering:
- 1/4 Americans receiving long-term opioid therapy struggle with opioid addiction
- Nearly 2 million Americans have a prescription opioid use disorder
- 80 percent of people who use heroin first used prescription opioids
- Drug overdose deaths among all Americans increased more than 200 percent between 1999 and 2015
- Deaths from prescription opioids have quadrupled in the past 20 years
Andrews & Thornton is representing individual victims and their families for everything that opioids have done to shatter families, including addiction, overdose, and death:
Purdue Pharma and its owners, the Sackler family, played a particularly nasty role in creating the Opioid Crisis. Purdue manufactures, promotes, sells, and distributes opioids such as OxyContin, MS Contin, Dilaudid/Dilaudid HP, Butrans, Hysingla ER, and Targiniq ER. When OxyContin was approved in 1995, the FDA allowed Purdue to claim that OxyContin “was believed to reduce” abuse potential because it was long-acting. Not to be deterred by the limitation required by FDA for OxyContin’s marketing, Purdue celebrated the launch of the drug, boasting that it would be “followed by a blizzard of prescriptions that will bury the competition. The prescription blizzard will be so deep, dense, and white.”
Purdue lived up to every word of that forecast. It marketed OxyContin to doctors and patients as being less addictive than other opioids, a claim without any scientific merit. The marketing worked more than Purdue could ever have imagined. OxyContin is Purdue’s best-selling opioid. Since 2009, Purdue’s annual sales of OxyContin have fluctuated between $2.47 billion and $2.99 billion, up four-fold from its 2006 sales of $800 million. OxyContin constituted roughly 30% of the entire market for analgesic drugs (painkillers).
The Purdue bankruptcy was one of the most complex bankruptcy proceedings ever. With governmental claims tallying in the trillions of dollars, it was an uphill battle from day one for individual victims of opioids to have any recovery guaranteed for them. However, Anne Andrews and Sean Higgins of Andrews & Thornton refused to take no for an answer. Through their tenacity, a fund of $700-750 million was created in the Purdue bankruptcy plan which would be set aside specifically to pay victims of Purdue opioids and the families of those who died from Purdue opioids.
In late 2021, the order confirming the Purdue bankruptcy plan was overturned by the District Court judge assigned to the case. That decision is currently being appealed. Andrews & Thornton continues to fight for opioid victims through the appeal process to secure compensation for their ordeals.
In January 2022, the Mallinckrodt bankruptcy plan was confirmed, securing over $150 million in compensation for opioid victims. Mallinckrodt was, at most times during the opioid pandemic, one of the largest manufacturers of opioids. Under the Mallinckrodt umbrella, the companies primarily sold generic opioids manufactured by subsidiary SpecGx. Mallinckrodt also used the same sort of mismarketing and overpromotion tactics as Purdue to sell Mallinckrodt’s widely used brand name opioids: Roxicodone, Methadose, Exalgo, and Anexsia.
The settlement for opioid victims in the Mallinckrodt plan was only made possible due to the hard-fought lessons from the Purdue bankruptcy and before that, the Insys Therapeutics bankruptcy where Andrews & Thornton first began advocating for victims of opioids.
Insys Therapeutics Bankruptcy
Insys committed some of the worst and most blatant fraud of the opioid crisis. The company called individuals’ insurance providers and told outright lies that these victims had cancer, making them eligible to be covered for Insys’s powerful fentanyl spray, Subsys. Approved only to fight cancer pain, Subsys was thrust upon thousands of individuals suffering from chronic pain. Insys also had sales representatives pressuring doctors to increase patients’ Subsys dosages to higher (and more profitable) levels as quickly and as often as possible. This reckless conduct put lives at risk and ultimately caused several deaths. Luckily, Subsys was not as widely used as other opioids but the outrageous conduct put Insys in the crosshairs of litigation early on.
Anne Andrews went toe-to-toe with lawyers for hundreds of cities and counties to ensure that opioid victims would receive some recovery from this bankruptcy. The lessons learned in this early, albeit small bankruptcy case were invaluable in the Purdue and Mallinckrodt bankruptcies and enabled Andrews & Thornton to secure compensation for opioid victims.
The time to file Purdue and Insys claims has passed, but if you or someone you know has been injured by Mallinckrodt opioids, Andrews & Thornton may be able to help. Type in the chat for more information on how to contact us for a free consultation on your injuries.