When used as directed, opioids can be effective in managing pain. Sadly though, when someone becomes addicted to a pain medication and misuses it, it can lead to serious health problems and can be devastating to families and communities.

Opioid abuse is a serious national crisis. Since 1999, opioid abuse has taken the lives of almost 400,000 Americans and continues to claim more than 60,000 lives each year.

What caused the opioid epidemic? That’s a complicated question. Certainly, over-prescription of opioid medications have played a role in creating the current crisis. As doctors have prescribed more and more opioids, an increasing number of people have misused and overdosed on these drugs. There has also be a rise in the number of individuals who have stolen or bought painkilling drugs from patients.

Unfortunately, some lawyers are now trying to use the opioid epidemic to their advantage by filing frivolous lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies. As IWF Senior Fellow Jennifer Braceras explains in IWF’s latest legal brief, these lawsuits won’t fix the opioid crisis and will ultimately harm those who are suffering because consumers end up bearing the costs in the form of more expensive drug prices and reduced access to medications they need.

Braceras discusses six different reasons why nuisance litigation is a bad fit for the opioid crisis:

  1. No public right is implicated: Addiction is not a “public nuisance” because the vast majority of people who are prescribed pain killers do not misuse the product or become addicted.
  2. Such cases lack identifiable causation: Plaintiffs are not able to demonstrate that the drug manufacturers caused them to spend excess sums of money, particularly where many of the alleged costs (law enforcement, for example) are costs the government must bear anyway.
  3. The Food and Drug Administration approved the use of opioids: Those who die of opioid overdoses (unlike those who die from lung cancer or other tobacco-related illnesses) are using the product in a way that is not intended (and, indeed, is warned against) by the manufacturer.
  4. The lawsuits violate the separation of powers and undermine the rule of law: It is the job of the legislative and executive branches to pass laws and regulations regarding the manufacture and distribution of prescription medications.
  5. Making “Big Pharma” pay up won’t solve the crisis: With more than 1,100 lawyers representing the parties, any settlement will be diluted significantly by the payment of legal fees.
  6. The lawsuits harm consumers: Ultimately, it is the consumer who bears the costs of these lawsuits in the form of higher drug prices and reduced access to pain medications for patients who need them. The lawsuits also draw funding away from the research and development of new medications and cures as well as from programs that might offer help to those who have become addicted.

Rather than lawsuits, the opioid abuse problem would be properly addressed by better education of both doctors and the public on the consequences of opioid misuse.

You can read the full legal brief here. Then, be sure to click on the icons below to share the paper with your friends on social media.