This article discusses whether New York municipalities can bring claims against the manufacturers and distributors of opioids to recover money spent on health care and related costs. Part I provides relevant factual background. Part II provides a brief overview of the proposed claims that the municipalities could assert. Part III provides examples of similar cases that have reached favorable outcomes.
During the 1990s, manufacturers had the ability to produce large quantities of opioids cheaply, but the market was small and focused on treating cancer patients. To expand the market to cover non-malignant diseases, like back pain and arthritis, manufacturers developed a plan to persuade patients to request, doctors to write, and health care payors, like the municipalities, to purchase more opioid prescriptions. With the help of consultants, manufacturers created the perception of a scientific exchange in medical literature by commissioning studies concluding that long-term use of opioids for chronic pain is appropriate. Because the FDA generally does not review materials that promote the use of a type of drug, but do not identify any particular drug by name, to avoid regulatory scrutiny, manufacturers created a network of front groups to encourage the treatment of chronic pain using the opioid class of drugs.
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