- Five companies were initially named as plaintiffs in a suit filed by the city of Chicago, including Purdue Pharma, Teva, Johnson & Johnson (J&J), Actavis and Endo International.
- The city claimed the drugmakers misled physicians about the benefits and risks of prescription opioid painkillers, leading to a wave of addiction issues.
- All of the defendants, with the exception of Purdue, were dismissed from the lawsuit. However, Chicago has the opportunity to file an amended suit.
The context in which this case is occurring goes beyond a local Chicago issue and reflects a larger national problem. Almost 2 million Americans are either addicted to opioids or at least highly dependent, and 23,000 people died from painkillers, according to CDC stats from 2013. There have been numerous efforts to hold drugmakers accountable, including lawsuits that have been filed most recently in Chicago, as well as in Santa Clara and Orange counties in California.
The claims point broadly to an alleged lack of honesty around opioid-related risks, with some specific claims related to paying key opinion leaders as speakers to support opioid use, funding advocacy groups who support the drugmakers and using persuasive tactics with physicians.
The movement against opioid use and against drugmakers has continued to grow, with advocacy groups, such as Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing, calling for tighter restrictions on opioid use.
In 2007, Purdue and several top-level company executives pleaded guilty to a federal charge of misbranding Oxycontin, resulting in a fine of $634.5 million. Purdue is once again on the stand for its activities---but it stands by its commitment to provide pain relief for the hundreds of thousands of people who face chronic pain every day of their lives.