Litigation against OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma LP is intensifying as six more U.S. states announced lawsuits, accusing the company of fueling a national opioid epidemic by deceptively marketing its prescription painkillers to generate billions of dollars in sales.
The growing American opioid crisis has been knowingly fueled by drug industry lobbyists and its political stakeholders in the U.S. Congress. As a result, over 2 million Americans are now believed to be suffering from substance use disorders related to prescription opioid pain relievers. It is estimated the crisis could claim up to 1 million lives in the U.S. by 2020.
In a blatant attempt to profit from this situation, some firms are even pushing supposed solutions to the problem that involve the prescribing of still more drugs. According to a disturbing report from ProPublica last year, the biopharmaceutical company Alkermes has been marketing its $1,000 a shot opioid addiction injection, Vivitrol, directly to judges. As a result, by presenting opioid addicts with the stark choice of either going to jail or joining an injection program, drug courts have helped annual sales of Vivitrol rise by almost 700 percent since 2011, reaching a total of $209 million in 2016.
Meanwhile, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders is introducing a bill that would impose jail time for pharmaceutical executives whose companies engage in manipulative opioid marketing practices. While Sanders’ legislative proposal can only be seen as a first step in bringing an end to the unscrupulous pharmaceutical ‘business with disease’, it is undoubtedly an essential step in the right direction.