An article by the New York Times published a story yesterday as many media outlets did on the recent news that pharmaceutical companies, McKesson Corp, AmerisourceBergen Corp, and Cardinal Health, are in talks with local and state governments to settle thousands of opioid lawsuits. The lawsuits total to eighteen billion dollars. McKesson Corp, AmerisourceBergen Corp, and Cardinal Health make up eighty-five percent of the United States drug market, and these three companies are a part of the six companies that will be defendants in a trial on October 21st, 2019 in Cleveland. Over 2,300 lawsuits have been compiled by parties looking to drug companies to take responsibility in the opioid epidemic.
Many of us have experienced loved ones and family members struggling with addiction and can understand how painful this crisis really is. It’s positive to finally see action being taken against these pharmaceutical companies, but the part of the story that this article leaves out is the significant role that doctors play in prescribing opioids. Doctors frequently get financial incentives from pharmaceutical companies to prescribe prescription painkillers, but they often escape accountability for their direct role in this epidemic. Over eighty percent of all opioid prescriptions in the world are written by doctors in the US.
The amount of time that it is taking for doctors to realize (or take responsibility in) the dangers of opioid addiction is shocking. It shouldn’t be up to patients to know the effects of opioids when seeking treatment for pain management, illness, or injury; we rely on doctors to tell us what we need to do to treat our medical problems.
I am glad that pharmaceutical companies are having their day in court to face the significant devastations their profiting techniques have taken in the deaths they caused. But doctors are our last line of defense for opioids to make their way into patients’ hands; we should be hearing about them too, as much as we’re hearing about the pharmaceutical companies and the many losses and devastation that opioid addictions have on our communities.