Chicago weighs lawsuit against drugmakers over off-label marketing of prescription painkillers

Posted
by Jim Orr

The City of Chicago is investigating marketing claims made by manufacturers of prescription narcotic painkillers as a prelude to a possible lawsuit against them, according to a report by the New York Times based on interviews and a court filing. If the City’s inquiry determines the drug companies made false claims, the city could seek to recover millions of dollars spent on pain drugs used to treat city employees and retirees.

Chicago’s investigation is part of the increasing scrutiny nationwide of both the safety and long-term effectiveness of opioids. Prescription painkillers are the most widely prescribed class of drugs in the United States and are involved in about 17,000 overdose deaths each year.

In September 2013, the Food and Drug Administration ordered stronger warning labels for long-acting opioid painkillers. Under the new guidelines, the FDA is directing that long-acting, extended-release painkillers should only be prescribed to patients who require long-term, around-the-clock pain relief and for whom less potent opioid painkillers have been ineffective.

According to the New York Times, Chicago officials have asked a judge to enforce a subpoena previously issued to Janssen Pharmaceuticals, a unit of Johnson & Johnson. Among other drugs, Janssen manufactures Duragesic, a time-release form of the opioid fentanyl.

The City is said to be investigating whether companies promoted opioids as safe and effective in the treatment of chronic pain, such as low back pain and arthritis, despite a lack of evidence to support those claims. The investigation also concerns whether the drug companies have understated the risk of addiction and other side effects.

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 2013.