Pfizer reaches settlement in Chicago lawsuit over opioid painkiller promotions

by Jim Orr

Pfizer has announced that it will issue a written code of conduct detailing the risk of addiction and long-term use posed by prescription opioid painkillers. The drugmaker agreed to publish the code of conduct as part of an agreement with the City of Chicago that will end the company’s involvement in a lawsuit filed two years ago by the city against five manufacturers of opioid painkillers over the dangers of these drugs.

The Chicago opioid painkillers lawsuit accused drugmakers Purdue Pharma, Endo International, Teva Pharmaceuticals, Actavis, and Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen division of deceptively marketing opioids to patients. The city alleged that in 2009, about 1,100 emergency room visits in Chicago were the result of opioid overdoses or other problems caused by these drugs. Chicago officials also alleged that the city paid roughly $12.3 million in insurance claims for opioid painkiller prescriptions between 2008 and 2015.

As part of its agreement with the city, Pfizer agreed to disclose that opioid medications carry a risk of addiction in all promotional materials for these drugs and not to promote these medications for any uses not approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Pfizer also agreed to disclose that there is little scientific evidence that opioid medications are effective when used for a treatment period of greater than 12 weeks. Many experts have expressed concerns that opioids are being prescribed to patients for long term pain management, increasing their risk of becoming addicted to these medications.

Pfizer also agreed not to provide samples of opioid medications to doctor’s offices and not to fund any organizations making illegal claims about opioids as part of the agreement. The company also agreed to disclose the results of clinical trial data for any opioid drugs it is developing and to create a website to disclose its promotion of opioid medications.

The Chicago settlement with Pfizer comes at a time when health officials across the country are trying to limit the widespread overprescription of opioid painkillers. Prescription painkillers such as oxycodone (Percocet, OxyContin), hydrocodone (Vicodin), hydromorphone (Dilaudid), fentanyl (Duragesic), methadone, and morphine (MS Contin) have caused approximately 165,000 overdose deaths since 2000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Much of the blame for this increase has been placed on opioid manufacturers that have aggressively promoted the use of these medications to doctors.

One of the key targets of the Chicago lawsuit, Purdue Pharma, has been repeatedly accused of using aggressive marketing tactics to promote the use of its powerful opioid drug OxyContin. In 2007, Purdue pleaded guilty to criminal charges that it misled doctors, patients, and health officials about the risk of addiction with OxyContin.

Chicago officials filed their lawsuit because they believe that opioid painkiller manufactures have continued to promote opioid medications in the years since Purdue’s guilty plea. City officials say that unlike the aggressive tactics used by Purdue, most opioid manufacturers have turned to third parties and front groups to promote these drugs through more subtle means.

Georgetown University associate professor Dr. Adriane Fugh-Berman says that Pfizer’s decision to settle with the City of Chicago may have been influenced by a new drug currently being developed by the company. Known as tanezumab, the new medications would be used to treat osteoarthritis, chronic back pain, and cancer pain. Dr. Fugh-Berman speculates that highlighting the addictive properties of opioid medications in the Chicago settlement may be a pre-emptive marketing push by the company for the new medication.

Opioid Painkiller Lawsuits Filed by Heygood, Orr & Pearson

The overprescription of opioid painkillers has caused hundreds of thousands of overdoses, cases of addiction or dependency, and death. The pharmaceutical industry aggressively promoted opioid medications to physicians for years, ignoring the health consequences that these drugs may have for patients. Indiscriminate prescribing practices with opioid medications on the part of some doctors have also contributed to the growing epidemic of opioid painkiller overdoses in the U.S.

If you or a loved one has suffered an overdose or other serious complications caused by the use of opioid painkillers, you may be eligible to file a lawsuit against the drug’s manufacturer or the doctor or hospital who prescribed the medication. The first step in taking legal action is to speak with an experienced team of attorneys who can guide you through the process of filing a case.

The lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson have represented numerous patients who have suffered complications from opioid painkillers. Our law firm is committed to helping patients who have been harmed by the aggressive opioid promotions of the pharmaceutical industry and the indiscriminate prescribing practices carried out by many physicians.

Heygood, Orr & Pearson has filed more lawsuits on behalf of individuals who were injured by the powerful painkiller fentanyl than all other law firms in the country—combined. In one of these cases, a jury awarded a $5.5 million verdict to the family of a Florida man who died while wearing a fentanyl pain patch sold under the brand name Duragesic. More recently, our firm obtained a $16,560,000 judgment against two Johnson & Johnson subsidiaries on behalf of an Illinois woman who suffered a fatal overdose while wearing a fentanyl patch.

If you or a loved one suffered an overdose or other complications resulting from the use of opioid painkiller medications, the lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson are here to help. For more information about the fentanyl and opioid lawsuits filed by our attorneys and to learn whether you may qualify to file a case, contact our firm by calling toll-free at 1-877-446-9001. You can also reach us by following the link to our free case evaluation form located at the top of this page and answering a few simple questions to get started.

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.