The opioid crisis has caused considerable physical, emotional, and financial strain on the people of the United States. Local governments from cities across the country have already begun filing lawsuits against Big Pharma’s most influential and allegedly corrupt businesses. Back in late December 2017, the official representatives of Delray Beach announced that they’re entering the ring as well. The city’s people and its leaders are demanding accountability and compensation from the drug makers that play a part in the opioid crisis. So far, Delray Beach is the first city in Florida to take Big Pharma to court.
Delray Enters the Battle Against Big Pharma
Delray and its surrounding areas have become well-known for their contributions to the growing industry of addiction treatment. In fact, the state of Florida is famous for its numerous addiction recovery facilities. Still, Delray Beach, in particular, has also gained the unfair reputation of being the “relapse capital” of America. Florida does have a high overdose rate countrywide, but this is not surprising. With South Florida being a popular rehab destination, its relapse rates are not necessarily out of proportion. City residents and officials believe that opioid-pushing pharmaceutical companies are stalling their success in addiction treatment.
Representatives of Delray Beach filed a federal lawsuit naming twelve major manufacturers, distributors and wholesalers of prescription opioids that are proven to be addictive. The city is suing them for their alleged downplays of the potential dangers of opioid use through fraudulent marketing tactics. This level of deception violates state laws surrounding consumer protection, unjust enrichment, false advertisement, and negligence. With this lawsuit, Delray Beach is now one of the 200 other municipalities participating in the nationwide legal battle against Big Pharma.
A Statement from Mayor Glickstein
Regarding Big Pharma and the pending legal battle, Cary Glickstein, Mayor of Delray Beach, gave the following statement:
“Oxycodone, that family of drugs, (were once) prescribed for terminally ill cancer patients where the addiction didn’t matter… Now they’re prescribed for toothaches… With virtually no help from our federal government and little from our state … cities like ours are now frantically searching for answers for our own population… We’re right for turning our eyes to those who are known conspirators in this ongoing atrocity… It’s going to be a battle, but we need to do what we can on the front-end to prevent the next generation of addicts.”
Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd, a national law firm stationed in the neighboring city of Boca Raton, will be representing Delray Beach in their multi-layered lawsuit. The firm agreed to cover the costs of the lawsuit in exchange for 23% of any court winnings (plus expenses). Additionally, Mayor Glickstein assured that the firm would be seeking damages for the opioid epidemic’s impact on Delray Beach’s citizens. However, the overall purpose of most of the Big Pharma lawsuits is to end the opiate industry’s deceptive marketing plans. Glickstein said in a later statement that “if we didn’t win a nickel, but the manufacturers are forced to stop the false marketing, then this would be a success.”
The City’s Lawsuit Against Big Pharma
Overdoses in the city of Delray Beach have skyrocketed in recent years. Between 2015 and 2016, overdoses increased by 250% from 195 cases to 690. Citizens are hoping that this will change with the case they’ve built with Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd. In early January 2018, the city’s lawsuit was sent to a judge in Ohio who is reportedly handling the majority of recent Big Pharma federal cases— roughly 189 in total. After initially reviewing the case, U.S. District Judge Dan Polster called for a settlement between the pharmaceutical companies and local government. Still, even a quick settlement might take months.
Mayor Glickstein estimated that the total cost per overdose costs between $2,000 and $2,500. This includes everything from the emergency call to hospitalization and treatment. So far, this price tag has been a strain on the taxpayers of Delray Beach. As part of the proposed settlement, the people of Delray Beach are demanding that the pharmaceutical companies take responsibility for their actions by covering costs for:
- local addiction treatment facilities
- overdose treatments in public hospitals
- foster care influenced by the opioid crisis
- homelessness affected by the opioid crisis
- anti-overdose tools (like naloxone) for police and first responders
The Potential for Success
The action taken against Big Pharma has been staggering so far. According to the New York Times, six collective counties between New York and California have also filed lawsuits. Even entire states have filed lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies. These include Ohio, Illinois, Missouri, Mississippi, and West Virginia. All of these lawsuits make the same accusation: some pharmaceutical companies are purposely downplaying their drugs’ addictive properties to keep chronic pain management profitable. If this turns out to be true, these companies can be held legally responsible for the events and consequences of the opioid crisis.
So far, most of the communities outside of Florida taking a stand against Big Pharma have had success in their own lawsuits. Many of them have won settlements after directing attention to the pharmaceutical industry’s deceitful marketing tactics. Interestingly enough, this has all happened before.
The multi-city complaints against pharmaceutical companies bear a striking resemblance to the nation’s dismantling of Big Tobacco in the 1990s. Back then, a federal judge ruled that the tobacco industry failed to inform the public about the potential harm brought on by cigarette smoking. Still, the potential for that same success in this ongoing and widespread litigation is unclear.
Is Big Pharma the New Big Tobacco?
Most of the lawsuits against Big Tobacco did end in settlements. Unfortunately, this did very little to change the tobacco industry’s prevalence in American culture. Additionally, Big Pharma has an advantage in the courtrooms that Big Tobacco did not: pharmaceutical companies can argue that individual cases of prescription misuse drive the opioid epidemic, which is partially right. Placing blame entirely on the pharmaceutical corporations for instances of personal prescription misuse is unrealistic, especially from a legal standpoint. Still, they are responsible for allegedly labeling opioid medications as safe without first disclosing the risks of addiction development. Big Tobacco did the same with cigarettes.
In the Meantime
Overall, State officials, citizens, and representatives are hopeful that the lawsuits against Big Pharma will turn out in their favor. There are substantial amounts of evidence against the twelve companies involved in the lawsuit. Also, Delray Beach is receiving plenty of support from other cities. Still, it’s impossible to predict the outcome of this lawsuit so early in its development.
So, in the meantime, the general public can focus its efforts on other ways of battling the opioid epidemic, outside of holding the manufacturers accountable for its role. There are lots of ways for the state of Florida and its community to lessen the impact of the opioid crisis, and it starts with effective addiction treatment plans for those already affected by it.
The Treatment Center’s Outpatient Services in South Florida
At the Treatment Center’s outpatient program our team of therapists, counselors, and medical professionals are doing their part to fight the opioid epidemic by helping thousands of opiate addiction sufferers achieve sobriety. Our convenient outpatient services located in Atlantis, Florida are available for those who want to start their recovery without sacrificing the rest of their daily routines, like work or school. If you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction to opioids, please call The Treatment Center’s Outpatient Services at (844) 211-7944.