Opioid narcotics are drugs that bind to opioid receptors to block or reduce feelings of pain. They are often prescribed for patients who have just had surgery or experienced physical trauma such as a car accident or serious sports injury. Since 1999, the number of prescription opioids sold in America has almost quadrupled. Over the same period, prescription opioid deaths have more than quadrupled. The toll opioid addiction has taken on American society as a whole has been commonly referred to as the “opioid epidemic.” According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIH), it is estimated that between 26.4 million and 36 million people abuse opioids worldwide. An estimated 2.1 million people in the U.S. suffered from substance use disorders related to prescription opioid pain relievers in 2012, and an estimated 467,000 were addicted to heroin.
The opioid epidemic has been called the worst drug crisis in American history, and the associated death rates are comparable to those of AIDS in the 1990s, according to a Frontline report. The epidemic has hit nearly everyone, regardless of race. Every racial demographic has seen more overdoses since 1999, with heroin spiking especially after 2010. Whites and Native Americans have experienced the largest rise in death rates, particularly when it comes to opioid-related fatalities. By 2014, whites and Native Americans were dying at double or triple the rates of African-Americans and Latinos. The total number of opioid pain relievers prescribed in the United States has skyrocketed in the past 25 years. The number of prescriptions for opioids have risen from around 76 million in 1991 to nearly 207 million in 2013. The United States is the biggest global consumer, accounting for almost 100 percent of the world total for hydrocodone and 81 percent for oxycodone. An estimated 165,000 Americans died from opioid overdoses between 1999 and 2014.
COMMONLY PRESCRIBED OPIOIDS
THE COST OF OPIOID ADDICTION
For years now, local and tribal governments across the United States have been financially burdened by an epidemic of opioid abuse, addiction, and overdoses that has plagued their communities. The economic burden the opioid epidemic places on communities nationwide today is estimated to be $78.4 billion. This accounts for lost productivity, increased healthcare costs, as well as the increased burden on the criminal justice system; and the problem is only getting worse. This breaks down to an average aggregate distribution as follows:
- LOST PRODUCTIVITY: $42 BILLION (53.3%)
- HEALTH INSURANCE: $26.1 BILLION (33.3%)
- CRIMINAL JUSTICE: $7.6 BILLION (9.7%)
- SUBSTANCE ABUSE TREATMENT: $2.8 BILLION (3.6%)
HOW DID WE GET HERE?
- The National Institutes of Health identified drug companies’ “aggressive marketing” as a major contributor to the nation’s opioid-abuse problem. Their deceptive and fraudulent marketing campaigns misrepresented the safety and efficacy of long-term use. Despite a lack of scientific evidence that supports the use of opioids for long-term pain management, nearly 254 million prescriptions have been issued since 1999.
- Across the U.S., the National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that every 25 minutes a baby is born suffering from opioid withdrawal, or what is referred to as neonatal abstinence syndrome. This represents a five-fold increase in the syndrome since 2000.
- Oklahoma leads the nation in non-medical use of painkillers, with nearly 5% of the population aged 12 and older abusing/misusing pharmaceuticals. Opioids are the most common class of drug causing accidental deaths in Oklahoma and were involved in 85% of fatal prescription-drug overdoses. Death rates from prescription opioid overdose are even more alarming throughout Native American communities and have increased almost four-fold since 2013.
- As the rates of opioid overdose have increased across the U.S., some local governments have sought to provide their first responders with Narcan (Naloxone), the potentially lifesaving drug administered to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose to avoid death. In response to this need, pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors have more than doubled the price of Naloxone since 2014.
WHY FILE AN OPIOID LAWSUIT?
Communities should not have to grapple with the costs associated battling the opioid epidemic alone. Municipalities, counties, and tribal governments across the country are now pursuing legal damages related to social costs, substance treatment and prevention, programming and training, emergency healthcare and health insurance, criminal justice and victimization, as well as lost productivity. Lawsuits empower communities to hold drug companies responsible for their role in the addiction crisis and help begin the healing process.
PROVEN SUCCESS IN PHARMACEUTICAL LITIGATION
Fulmer Sill is among the most qualified law firms in the country to undertake opioid litigation on behalf of governmental entities and institutions. Firm members often serve in court-appointed leadership roles for nationally-consolidated cases, representing large groups of injured plaintiffs, hospitals and other healthcare providers. In the practice area of pharmaceutical litigation, Fulmer Sill attorneys have recovered significantly more client compensation than any other Oklahomabased law firm throughout the state’s history. The firm has been instrumental in obtaining multibillion-dollar recoveries for diabetes patients, global resolution of claims against opioid manufacturers, and successful outcomes in stimulant litigation for twenty consecutive years. Fulmer Sill attorneys also negotiated what is believed to be the first and only settlement between Native American tribes and a major pharmaceutical company.
DO YOU HAVE QUESTIONS ABOUT INJURIES RELATED TO OPIOID USE?
At Fulmer Sill, we are proud to deliver high-quality assistance to all of our clients. Should you choose to seek our legal representation, we are confident that our experience and knowledge will produce a favorable outcome for you. If you or a loved one have been affected by a opioid claim, we encourage you to consult with our team as soon as possible. All initial consultations are free, and we don’t charge any up-front fees for representation. Fulmer Sill handles all fees on a contingency basis, meaning that unless we’re successful, you don’t have to pay us. Please contact us at (405)510.0077 for a free consultation.