Opioids: Big Bucks, Little Regard for Truth
By Editorial Staff
It’s becoming more common to see drug manufacturers negotiate “false claims” settlements for millions and billions of dollars. Most of these settlements have to do with violations in the marketing of the drugs they produce and sell. Wikipedia lists the top 20 settlements involving “false claims” by drug manufacturers, which total more than $17 billion in criminal and civil penalties between 2001–2012. Add in the significant Johnson & Johnson settlement from last year and the number is closer to $20 billion or about $1.5 billion a year.
Looking at the violations and the insidious nature of the drug companies’ marketing tactics, one can’t help assume that these penalties are accepted as a cost of doing business. With annual sales well over $330 billion and estimated marketing budgets of $72 billion, a few billion in annual fines is not likely to make much of an impact, regardless of their PR rhetoric.
But a new lawsuit brought forth by the California counties of Orange and Santa Clara may begin to make a difference. The suit is directed at nine manufacturers of opioids, drugs that have been over-marketed to the point that “in 2009, there were more than twice as many deaths from prescription opioid overdoses (15,597) than from cocaine (4,350) and heroin (3,278) put together.”
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