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DOJ Throw Its Weight Behind Suit Against Opioid Manufacturers

by Countable | 2.28.18

What’s the story?

In a press conference Tuesday Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Department of Justice (DOJ) will file a statement of interest in a pending federal lawsuit against opioid manufacturers for what he called "false, deceptive, and unfair marketing of opioid drugs."

The New York Times reports that the, "lawsuit pending in Federal District Court in Cleveland consolidates more than 400 complaints by cities, counties and Native American tribes nationwide." It accuses the manufacturers of misleading marketing, intentionally downplaying the drugs dangers, and neglecting to report orders that would have indicated abuse.

Previous administrations have used statements of interest to address issues of diplomacy, national security and civil rights.

Sessions also announced the creation of a new task force that will pursue opioid makers and distributors, seeking out other lawsuits that the administration can support to make sure that any illegality is being punished:

"We will use criminal penalties. We will use civil penalties. We will use whatever tools we have to hold people accountable for breaking our laws."

Defendants in the case include pharmaceutical giants Johnson & Johnson, Purdue Pharma and Teva Pharmaceuticals, large distributors McKesson and Cardinal Health and pharmacy chains like CVS, Rite Aid and Walgreens.

Plaintiffs in the case are seeking to have nine years of opioid-related data made available by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) for the case. So far, the DEA has agreed to release two in order to "protect existing investigations", but the plaintiffs are hoping the DOJ’s statement of interest will increase the likelihood of receiving the other seven years worth of data.

What do you think?

Do you support the DOJ using their influence in cases like this one? Do you think the DEA should release the requested data? What do you think the administration should be doing in addition to this effort in order to combat the opioid epidemic?

Tell us in the comments what you think, then use the Take Action button to tell your reps!

— Asha Sanaker

(Photo Credit: Wikimedia / Creative Commons)

Countable

Written by Countable

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(57)
  • Gopin2018
    02/28/2018
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    People who need opioids for chronic pain like myself are being hurt by this blanket attack on opioids. I already can’t get refills through the VA ; my doctor must do it each month and can’t refill it early either so I must watch my medicine closely so I don’t run out. Protect patients Congress who must use opioids and don’t abuse them!

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  • ScottAnthonyUSA
    03/01/2018
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    Nothing disturbs me more than this topic. While responsible prescribing practices should be implemented, the hype of the “Opioid Crisis” astounds me. Do some people die from legally prescribed opioids, yes. Do many people die from Tylenol Toxicity, yes. Do many people die from Alcohol which requires no prescription, yes. This may come as a shock to many reading this, but opiates and opioids are actually very safe. The problem isn’t pain patients dying from overdoses, the problem is the flood of FENTANYL into the black market as well as other basement laboratory concoctions passing as legal Pharmacy produced medications. There are always some physicians willing to risk lives to cash in on prescriptions but with state databases becoming more the norm, it’s very simple to see which physicians are prescribing at higher rates than the norm. This isn’t rocket science. What IS happening however is that out of fear of the DOJ / DEA, we now have a backlash of physicians who were properly treating their patients for pain cutting off treatments. The result? Those patients turn to one of two things: ILLICIT STREET DRUGS, or SUICIDE. We didn’t really solve the problem of deaths now did we? No! So ask yourselves this once getting past the “holier than thou” high horse stance; would we rather medications be prescribed safer, or are we willing to let people die horrific and painful deaths because a few bad physicians and patients ruined it for everyone? Until you are a pain patient yourself (and statistically the chances are fairly good that 50% reading this will be at some point) you can not begin to fathom the inhumane torture we are now putting our patients through. I’m all for safer prescribing, but that should never substitute for adequate and responsible pain control. Virtue signaling is dangerous on this front, and its only going to take a few high ranking members of Congress to lose family members to Suicide before this corrects course I’m afraid.

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  • Christine
    02/28/2018
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    One thing I agree with Sessions on. Geez! I never thought I’d ever say that!

    Like (15)
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  • RadicalModerate
    02/28/2018
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    My wife kicked opiates with help from medical cannabis, and now treats her chronic pain with cannabis concentrates. Thank god for weed. I have my wife back and my daughter has her mother back.

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  • Deirdre
    02/28/2018
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    What about the patients that are being harmed by all of this? What about the chronic pain patients? What are you doing to protect them? I see nothing being done to help the people who do not abuse their medications and now are being forced into not being able to get the medication they need. And where were you when it was mostly black people who did heroin. Where were you when they OD’ed and died. Only because white middle class people are using heroin you now are going to do something!

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  • ScottAnthonyUSA
    03/01/2018
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    Let’s try this another way. Imagine the following... you must choose between having your fingers & toes amputated without anesthesia while awake, getting a root canal every day without anesthesia, or having daily injections into your eyeball via a large needle without anesthesia. You going to need to do this every day for the next year or more, and you can not refuse, one of these will happen each day. Some days two of the above will happen. You did nothing to deserve this punishment other than follow the rules, but for some reason those “better than you” decided this is for your own good. Does it sound like fun? Does it sound fair? Would you watch your daughter / son / mother / father go through this torture every day and say “Oh it’s ok, stop your crying” knowing full well how excruciating this is going to be? When you wake up each day you want this torture to stop, but it won’t... and so you start to cry, you’re extremely anxious and nauseous knowing what is to come next. Tell us in your own words how you will bear such torture knowing you must go through it as your only other option is to kill yourself. If you’ve read this far, then welcome to the world of someone who lives in pain. Still think cutting off pain medications is a solid plan? Would it be what you would choose for your child? Your parent? Someone you love? I doubt it. Time to rethink the process. Making a pain patient suffer isn’t the answer, and in fact, it is cruel and unusual punishment.

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  • CannabisSavedMe
    02/28/2018
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    I am an opiate survivor! I was terribly addicted to doctor prescribed opiates for over six years. I was “discharged” from my family doctor because I tested positive for THC in my urine, which I was completely honest and upfront about using. I used cannabis to help combat some of the terrible side effects from this so called “safe” medicine called Tramadol or Ultram. I was incredibly addicted to this medicine and then told I had to quit cold turkey by my doctor who should know that it could be extremely dangerous for me to do this and that it could even cause death. I asked my health care provider if they could please help me find another way, to offer some other sort of treatment to get off of this medicine that was causing me so much misery. I was denied and even banned from any affiliated practices. Having no other means to get my medicine I was forced to go online and purchase the tramadol mail order from China, rather than go to the streets to look for heroin. I felt like a prisoner, a sub human. I was hurt that this doctor who I had trusted and who had sworn an oath to do no harm would completely disregard my health and safety. In April of 2017 I found a new doctor who helped me to get referral into The New York MMJ program. I was able to use cannabis legally for my pain for the very first time. Having access to this cannabis saved my life. I was able to taper off of the tramadol and use the cannabis to help treat not only my pain but my severe withdrawal symptoms from the opiates. Finally I have broken free from the pharmaceutical chains that held me prisoner for so long. Not only can Cannabis help treat the opiate addiction epidemic our country faces it can help to make our country more healthy again. Cannabis has been scientifically proven to be a legitimate treatment for numerous ailments and disorders. Cannabis Saved Me and it can save so many more! Please legalize Cannabis for any and all Americans who will benefit from it’s use. Make Cannabis affordable and accessible to patients, allow patients to cultivate their medicine at home and stop discrimination of people who utilize this plant. Please consider doing the right thing, stop denying the science and stop denying any person from this natural holistic medicine.

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  • LanceCarricoFL
    03/01/2018
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    Stop criminalizing those addicted thanks to greedy doctors. It's time we get addicts help instead of taking their pills away and forcing them to have no other alternative besides heroine. Simply stoping drug companies from making opiates at this point is not going to help! It's too late! It will only kill more and hurt more. WE NEED REAL HELP!

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  • Steve
    02/28/2018
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    Unless the drug manufacturers are breaking the law, then and only then should criminal charges be filed against these manufacturers.

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  • Ari
    02/28/2018
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    I believe we should be regulating big pharma more strongly. We ought to pursue a more acceptable balance between free market innovation and patient protections. Patients with legitimate needs for opiate medications must be supported while investigations continue into any illegal (and ethically questionable) role big pharma had in growing and spreading the opioid epidemic.

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  • Emalee
    02/28/2018
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    As someone who works in healthcare, the ease that physicians have with receiving and prescribing these drugs is astonishing. However, they have been required to attend workshops and new rules are implemented to curve they’re prescription power. Nonetheless, patients find a way to attain the drugs because of the looseness of big pharma distributing their products to authorized and non authorized distributors with little to no regulations. I agree with these actions being taken to hold the real culprit and money mongers responsible. Generations suffer because someone wants a paycheck.

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  • Irene
    02/28/2018
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    The unfortunate reality is that in no other country can pharmaceutical companies have the liberties they enjoy in the United States. Between the exorbitant prices, advertising, and kickbacks to physicians they have been able to make trillions off of the suffering of others. It’s time to reign them in.

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  • Lonesomelight
    03/01/2018
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    While I heavily support every possible means of regulating and penalizing the pharmaceutical industry for its many transgressions against humanity, I am instantly suspicious of the fact that Sessions is promoting this move. His track record is about as historically regressive (that is to say not in touch with modern reality) as you can get. I only suspect another industry benefiting from whatever legislation he and his corporate supporters are planning. (P.S. Where was this outrage when the African American drug epidemic was in effect?)

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  • Hillary
    03/01/2018
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    If you want to fix the opioid crisis then change our culture! We have multitudes of young people who can’t do anything like sew a dress, write a poem, play an instrument, paint a mural, prepare a gourmet meal, bake an amazing cake from scratch, knit a sweater- nothing that develops pride of accomplishment, nothing that develops critical thinking skills, nothing that expresses true emotion and we wonder why they take painkillers!? We tell our children their feelings don’t count unless they are mad and that’s ok. What the Hell did you expect? We have killed beautiful language, we have destroyed concentration and interest in the world around us, and then we ask our people to face unbearable agony empty handed. Opioid use IS a real problem but it is not THE real problem- it is a symptom. Give students back the arts, give respect to workers, give love to the mentally ill, give fair pay to workers doing jobs no one else wants and see what happens to the abuse of drugs.

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  • TracyEckels
    02/28/2018
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    After suffering from chronic pain for the last 30 years I have taken probably every pain medication that there is. I have reached a point of tolerance today I do not feel any euphoria from the narcotics that I use to live with this pain. I am certain that if I wanted to use my medications to get high, I would have to take so much that I would put myself in danger of overdosing. I am actually happy that I don’t feel any euphoria from my pain medications. I say this because with no euphoria I don’t feel any addiction symptoms. I don’t take more than I’m supposed to just to get high and therefore I don’t feel that I am addicted to the medications that I take. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure that if I had to stop talking my medications I’m sure that I would have some physical withdrawals, but I don’t feel mentally addicted at all.

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  • Tooluser1
    02/28/2018
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    Well of course they did. With Sessions as invested in private prisons as he is, this is a fantastic opportunity to incarcerate more Americans for fun and profit.

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  • Luke
    02/28/2018
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    Our government needs to work on more things like these. Issues that are causing widespread harm in America that have Bipartisan support to resolve. Take care of this please, opioids are over-priced, over-produced, and over-prescribed in our country.

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  • Joe
    03/01/2018
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    This is a waste. Years ago Medicare and Medicaid made a push that pain is the 5th vital sign. They made it as important as pulse and blood pressure. Payment was tied to increased patient satisfaction scores which included pain management. Providers were penalized if they didn’t describe enough opioids. Now suddenly the doctors and big pharma are evil? I call bullshit. Everyone knew what narcotics are addictive. Yet the federal government pushed it on people. If you want someone to blame, blame Medicare and Medicaid.

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  • Jane
    03/01/2018
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    So you are going to make it harder for those that truly need opioids! We jump through all your hoops and you still want more!! Because you think you know what we need.

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  • Gerald
    02/28/2018
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    Pharma is the NRA of the medical profession!

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