South Dakota is included in a class-action lawsuit that alleges the pharmaceutical industry misled the public about the dangers of prescription opioids. The lawsuit, filed in federal court this week, lays blame for the opioid epidemic at the feet of the drug-making companies.
People in 16 states, including South Dakota, are represented in the lawsuit which seeks millions of dollars in damages. The attorneys who filed the lawsuit say the opioid epidemic has unfairly driven up health insurance costs for everyone because of how companies branded their prescription painkillers.
The lawsuit alleges that drugmakers engaged in a “deceptive marketing scheme” to get doctors and patients to use opioids to treat chronic pain.
“The pharmaceutical companies that provided opioids have perpetuated a fraud on the people of South Dakota, and on the American people by lying about the addictive nature of these drugs saying that they weren’t addictive,” Plaintiffs’ attorney Travis Lenkner said.
Chicago attorney Travis Lenkner says the over-prescription of opioids led to expensive addiction hospitalizations and recovery programs which in turn, forced health insurers to raise rates, costing the government and private companies a half-a-trillion dollars a year. If the lawsuit is successful, people who pay into private insurance plans could recoup some of those losses.
“Even for individual people, I know that would make a difference for me to have those dollars back and certainly for companies and employers that are paying for plans for tens or hundreds of employees, it does start to add up and become a significant amount of money,” Lenkner said.
We reached out to some of the companies named in the lawsuit.
Endo sent us a statement saying the company has voluntarily stopped promoting opioid products to health care professionals and eliminated its entire pain production sales force. Endo has also discontinued research and development of new opioid products.
Janssen Pharmaceuticals says “the allegations made against our company are baseless and unsubstantiated. In fact, our medications have some of the lowest rates of abuse among this class of medications.”