A couple of weeks ago, I was invited to respond to an article a friend, Nick Rishwain, wrote about Kentucky’s opioid crisis and Attorney General Andy Beshear’s complaint that was recently filed against McKesson Corp., one of the major pharmaceutical corporations that is responsible for manufacturing prescription painkillers. According to the complaint, McKesson Corp. helped “fuel the opioid epidemic by failing to halt shipments of suspiciously large or frequent orders by pharmacies of prescription painkillers.”
In his article, Nick, legal technology expert, examined how the lawsuit will likely proceed, what both sides may try and argue, and how those arguments may take place. There’s no denying the fact that lawsuits like these will take up a ton of news headline space in the weeks, months, and even years to come. We have a great deal of work ahead of us to put an end to opioid overdoses, and our work is just beginning—here in Kentucky and nationwide.
Kentucky is one of the four U.S. states where opioid overdose rates are the highest in the nation. It’s estimated that twice as many people have died from opioid overdoses here in comparison to the nationwide average overdose fatality rate.
Historically, Kentucky doctors went through periods where they were able to legally hand out prescription opioid painkillers extremely freely to patients who required pain control. Complaints like the one against McKesson Corp. are revealing that these large, frequent shipments of opioids very much coincide with the periods where overdoses followed.
When patients became dependent on prescription opioids, they were often cut off cold turkey from the drugs and experienced severe withdrawal symptoms as well as significant pain relapse. There was one drug that was easily accessible, however—and cheaper than prescription painkillers. Guess which drug that was? Heroin. Now we’re seeing record numbers of heroin overdoses.
The ramifications of the state’s opioid crisis can be felt throughout the entire state of Kentucky. Everything from our healthcare systems to our foster care systems, drug programs, and criminal systems are feeling the effects. Entire families are being destroyed. It’s time to act.
In the realm of civil lawsuits, legal options exist for victims of prescription opioid dependency and families of those who have died because of an overdose, but many of these options will depend on what happens during these preliminary lawsuits. The chances of these eventual lawsuits involving thousands upon thousands of individuals and families is very high, so many lawyers are waiting to see what happens next. Many others are beginning to speak to potential victims and their families.
As you already know, these lawsuits are incredibly complex and will undoubtedly see action on a federal level in addition to on state levels. We’re amidst a rocky period, but at the end of the day, we must allow ourselves a brief period of respite due to the fact that these cases, and the opioid epidemic as a whole, is finally getting the legal attention both deserve.