It happened in the 90’s when state attorney generals across the country were concerned with the costs associated with tobacco use and smoking, and they turned to litigation to help solve the economic drain. Could the recent AG lawsuits against a variety of opioid manufacturers prove to be similar?
I read with great curiosity when on May 31, 2017, the Ohio Attorney General, Mike Dewine, filed a lawsuit against against five opioid painkiller manufacturers.
The lawsuit accused the drug makers of misrepresenting the addiction risks associated with the powerful pills, and further pointed the finger at the misrepresentation as being the cause of the nationwide epidemic of opioid addiction and death.
The Washing Post reported that Mr. DeWine brought his case in an Ohio state court, choosing his venue the courthouse in Chillicothe, a small city whose struggle with the addiction crisis was the subject of a report by The Post’s Joel Achenbach. Read the Washington Post story here.
With the news of the lawsuit, and having read the complaint and being astounded by some of the statistical allegations contained therein, I set off to research whether my home state of Wyoming had a same or similar problem, at least statistically.
This is what I found nationally:
- Almost 2 million Americans abused or were dependent on prescription opioids in 2014.
- 91 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose (including prescription opioids and heroin).
- Since 1999 the amount of prescription opioids sold in the United States has nearly quadrupled.
- Most people who abuse prescription opioids get them for free from a friend or a relative.
Looking at Ohio as the baseline since they were the first to file, in Ohio:
5.4% of the prescription claims made in Ohio are opioid claims.
Total Opioid Claims: 4,559,597
Total Claims: 84,350,475
How does Wyoming compare to Ohio?
5.2% of the prescription claims made in Wyoming are opioid claims.
Total Opioid Claims: 92,917
Total Claims: 1,786,399
- Deaths related to prescription drug overdose has increased five times from 2004-2005 to 2014-2015.
- Wyoming ranks 23rd for age adjusted drug overdose deaths in the United States with 16.4 deaths per 100,000.
- As of 2013, cocaine and other opiates were the primary substance of abuse for people 12 years of age and older in the years spanning 2002-2012 according to the Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, SAMHSA.
In 2014-2015, there were 96 deaths with prescription drugs as a contributing cause of death.