In the United States, more than 145 people die every day from opioid overdoses. Public health officials have called the current opioid epidemic the worst drug crisis in American history. To protect our members and help battle this epidemic,TeamCare has taken legal action against the opioid pharmaceutical manufacturers.
Recognizing the significant impact this is having both on our members and the claim cost associated with this crisis, the Central States Health Fund’s Board of Trustees has gone to federal court seeking damages for the drug manufacturers’ misrepresentations of opioids. These misrepresentations lead to substantial profits for the manufacturers, literally at the expense of our members, dependents, and retirees’ lives. The Fund’s legal action, along with all other federal class actions against opioid defendants, have all been consolidated in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio.
The Fund’s litigation claims that in order to decrease reasonable concerns about opioids and to maximize their profits, opioid manufacturers engaged in a concerted coordinated strategy to shift the way in which doctors and patients think about pain and encourage the use of opioids. The litigation further claims that by means of a number of false and misleading representations, they encouraged the medical profession to prescribe opioids to treat not just the relative few who suffer from post-surgical pain and end-stage cancer pain, but also the masses who suffer from common chronic pain conditions that can be treated with pain medications that do not carry the high risk of addictions associated with opioids.
The Fund alleges that the opioid manufacturers participated in a targeted misinformation campaign to promote opioid use and increase written prescriptions and ultimately their sales. In addition to added benefit expense costs to TeamCare, this blatant misrepresentation led to a nationwide rise in overdoses and fatalities.
In one example, the litigation alleges that the manufacturer marketed the way doctors viewed and prescribed opioids—disseminating unproven and deceptive messages that opioids were non-addictive and safe for the treatment of chronic, long-term pain. The manufacturer falsely told doctors that cutting-edge medical research indicated that they were under-prescribing opioids to the detriment of patients who were needlessly suffering.
TeamCare will continue to update members as the case progresses through the courts.
Opioid Controls Set by CVS Caremark
Last year, to help combat this worsening opioid crisis, CVS Caremark implemented a program that limits the amount and strength of opioids dispensed for acute conditions to 7 days. The program will also limit the daily dosage of opioids and require the use of immediate-release (IR) formulations before it will dispense extended-release (ER) formulations.
In addition to these controls, CVS Caremark is strengthening their patient counseling options. When a prescription is picked up at the pharmacy, the pharmacist will now discuss the risks of dependence and addiction tied to opioid use and answer the patients’ questions.