Chicago Sues Drug Companies over Painkiller Marketing

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

A lawsuit filed by the city of Chicago claims five pharmaceutical manufacturers have been irresponsible in their marketing of highly addictive pain medications, turning people into addicts and costing local government millions of dollars.


The overuse and in many cases abuse of opioid-based painkillers has cost Chicago nearly $10 million over the past seven years, city attorneys say. They blame drug makers for improperly marketing their products to consumers with non-cancer chronic pain.


“For years, Big Pharma has deceived the public about the true risks and benefits of highly potent and highly addictive painkillers in order to expand their customer base and increase their bottom line. This has led to a dramatic rise in drug addiction, overdose and diversion in communities across the nation, and Chicago is not immune to this epidemic,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a prepared statement. “Today, we’re saying enough is enough – it’s time for these companies to end these irresponsible practices and be held accountable for their deceptive actions.”


Aiding the city in its litigation is Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll, a Washington, D.C.-based law firm that also is representing two California counties, Orange and Santa Clara, fighting a similar legal battle.


The defendants in both civil cases are Janssen Pharmaceuticals (a division of Johnson & Johnson), Purdue Pharma, Actavis, Endo Health Solutions Inc., and Cephalon Inc. (part of Teva Pharmaceutical Industries).


The webpage for Janssen’s Duragesic (fentanyl) drug says that the medication “is a strong prescription pain medication for moderate to severe chronic pain that can provide long-lasting relief from persistent pain.” It makes no mention on the page about use being recommended for or restricted to cancer patients.  


Purdue Pharma faced criminal and civil charges filed by the U.S. Department of Justice last decade over allegations of misleading the government, physicians and consumers while marketing the notorious painkiller OxyContin. The company eventually settled the case for $634 million.


In the wake of concerns about the drug’s abuse, Purdue developed a new version of OxyContin that was supposed to reduce its ability to be abused in ways such as crushing the pills and snorting them.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

City of Chicago Sues Over Painkiller Marketing (by Carla Johnson, Associated Press)

City of Chicago Sues Big Pharma for Deceptively Marketing Highly Addictive Prescription Painkillers (City of Chicago)

Chicago Accuses Drug Companies of Pushing Opioids (by Andrew Harris, Bloomberg News)

States Battle with FDA over Powerful New Painkiller (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Doctors are Primary Source of Narcotic Painkillers for Chronic Drug Abusers in U.S. (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


Mary Giroux 9 years ago
It's about time somebody went after the drug companies for causing the worst drug addiction epidemic in history. As a mother who lost a son to these poisonous pills, I say go get them!!

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