Chicago sues the prescription painkiller industry for deceptive marketing

by Jim Orr

The city of Chicago has sued several manufacturers of prescription painkillers for using deceptive marketing practices to sell drugs to consumers, creating addicts and driving up costs for the city. The suit was filed recently in Cook County Circuit Court against five drug companies: Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Purdue Pharma, Actavis, Endo Health Solutions Inc., and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries’ Cephalon Inc.

The lawsuit accuses the drug companies of marketing highly addictive opioids normally used in cancer treatments as a remedy for everyday pain, including back pain, arthritis and headaches. The suit alleges the pharmaceutical companies’ marketing of opioids for long-term use to treat non-cancer pain was false, misleading and “unsupported by science.” According to the suit, the city has paid almost $9.5 million for filling prescriptions for such drugs since 2007.

The Chicago prescription painkillers lawsuit follows several months of investigation by city officials into the marketing practices used by opioid manufacturers. As we reported in December, the city launched the investigation in an effort to recover millions of dollars that were spent on painkiller prescriptions issued to Chicago city employees and retirees.

The epidemic of prescription painkiller deaths

Drug deaths in America now outnumber traffic fatalities. Overdoses of prescription painkillers (opioid or narcotic pain relievers) have more than tripled in the past 20 years, killing more than 15,500 people in the United States in 2009 alone, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Prescription drugs linked to causing the most deaths include:

  • Opioids (painkiller) such hydrocodone (Vicodin), oxycodone (OxyContin) and fentanyl (Duragesic) patches;
  • Benzodiazepines (central nervous system depressants used to induce sleep and treat anxiety) such as Alprazolam (Xanax), Diazepam (Valium); and
  • Amphetamines (central nervous system stimulants used to treat ADHD and similar disorders) such as Adderal, Ridalin, and Concentra.

Since 1999 there has been a 300% increase in the prescription and sale of opioid painkillers. These drugs now account for more deaths each year than cocaine and heroine combined.

Doctors and Hospitals Must Prescribe Opioid Painkillers With Care

When doctors and hospitals fail to exercise proper care when prescribing opioid medications, they put the health—and even the lives—of their patients at risk. Patients who are given painkillers that are more powerful than what is needed to treat their symptoms, or who are given large prescriptions with more pills than necessary, are more likely to suffer an accidental overdose or to become addicted to their medications. In other cases, opioid medications such as fentanyl can be prescribed with other drugs that depress the central nervous system, leading to a combined drug overdose.

If you or a loved one has been the victim of complications from an opioid overdose, the doctor or hospital who prescribed these drugs may be to blame. Many doctors who prescribe strong painkillers to their patients have little experience with pain management, causing them to prescribe drugs that are too powerful or in doses that exceed what a patient requires. Sadly, many of these mistakes end in addictions, overdoses, or deaths that could have been prevented.

Heygood, Orr & Pearson fights for painkiller overdose victims

The law firm of Heygood, Orr & Pearson has represented numerous clients who have been the victim of complications from excessive painkiller prescriptions by doctors or hospitals. The attorneys at our law firm have handled more cases involving the fentanyl pain patch—a powerful opioid painkiller about 100 times more potent than morphine—than all other law firms in the country combined.

Our partners—Michael Heygood, Jim Orr, and Eric Pearson—have each been chosen by their peers as Super Lawyers in the state of Texas for several years in a row.* Our firm has also been given the highest possible rating for law firms by Martindale-Hubbell, the nation’s leading law firm rating service.

For more information about opioid painkiller lawsuits and to find out if you are eligible to file a case, contact the lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson by calling toll-free at 1-877-446-9001, or by filling out the free case evaluation form located at the top of this page.


Michael Heygood, James Craig Orr, Jr. and Eric Pearson were selected to the Super Lawyers List, a Thomson Reuters publication, for the years 2003 through 2014.

by Jim Orr

Jim Orr is a licensed attorney and a partner at HO&P focusing on business and personal injury litigation. Jim was selected multiple times to the Super Lawyers List and has tried 70+ cases to verdict.