Federal judicial panel weighs creation of nationwide MDL in response to opioid epidemic

by Jim Orr

Legal experts say that as more and more lawsuits continue to be filed against manufacturers of opioid painkillers, it is becoming increasingly more likely that these cases will be consolidated in a federal multidistrict litigation (MDL). In addition to the thousands of lawsuits filed on behalf of patients who suffered complications from opioids, manufacturers of prescription painkillers are also facing lawsuits filed by state, municipal, and county officials nationwide.

Recently, attorneys representing local governments that have filed lawsuits against opioid manufacturers appeared before the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation in St. Louis, Missouri to argue that these cases should be consolidated in a federal MDL. The panel will consider whether to consolidate at least 46 lawsuits filed by local governments in a single court.

At least 100 lawsuits have been filed by local governments against opioid manufacturers alleging that these companies illegally marketed opioid medications to doctors and patients, as well as filing false claims for reimbursement for these prescriptions. A joint investigation by 41 state attorney generals was also launched over the summer against several opioid manufacturers and distributors, including Purdue Pharma, Endo, Allergan, McKesson, and Teva.

Legal experts say that the proposed opioid MDL would differ somewhat from most MDLs, which usually involve a single defendant. However, attorneys who have filed lawsuits involved in the proposed MDL say that common factors in all the cases – combined with growing momentum to address the opioid crisis in court – may help the U.S. Judicial Panel in their decision to consolidate these cases under a single jurisdiction.

Lawsuits Filed in Response to the Opioid Epidemic

The flood of new lawsuits filed against the makers of prescription painkillers comes in response to a nationwide epidemic of overdoses and other complications linked to opioid drugs. According to the CDC, opioid prescriptions have increased by four times in the U.S. since 1999. The agency says that deaths from opioid overdoses have also increased by four times during this period, with more than 33,000 deaths in 2015 alone.

This increase in the number of opioid prescriptions in the U.S. and the accompanying increase in deaths from opioid overdoses came in part because of the aggressive marketing of opioid drugs by the manufacturers of these medications. Lawsuits filed against opioid manufacturers such as Purdue Pharma have accused these companies of marketing opioid medications to doctors for use in patients who are not approved to take these drugs by the FDA. As more and more patients began taking opioid medications, the rate of addiction, drug abuse, dependency, and fatal overdoses caused by opioid painkillers has skyrocketed.

The lawsuits filed against Purdue Pharma and other opioid manufacturers have accused these companies of downplaying the dangers of opioid medications. Some lawsuits have also accused opioid makers of negligence, violations of racketeering laws, and state laws governing illegal business practices.

Other opioid lawsuits filed by state and local governments have targeted so-called “pill mills” that distributed massive quantities of opioid medications. Lawsuits have also been filed against doctors and pharmacists who lost their licenses because of inappropriate opioid prescriptions.

Opioid Overdose Lawsuits Filed by Heygood, Orr & Pearson

If you have lost a loved one to an opioid overdose, you may qualify to file a lawsuit against the manufacturer of the drug, or the doctor or hospital who prescribed the medication. The first step in taking legal action is to consult with an experienced attorney regarding your legal rights.

The lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson have filed numerous lawsuits on behalf of opioid overdose victims and their families. Our firm has filed more lawsuits involving the fentanyl pain patch than all other law firms in the U.S. – combined. Heygood, Orr & Pearson has also filed numerous lawsuits on behalf of individuals who were harmed by other complications from opioid painkillers, including patients who suffered a combined drug overdose caused by interactions between opioids and other CNS depressant medications.

For more information about filing an opioid overdose lawsuit and to find out whether you may qualify to file a case, contact the lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson by calling toll-free at 1-877-446-9001. You can also reach us by following the link to our free case evaluation form and answering a few brief questions to get started.