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Described as the worst drug epidemic in U.S. history and akin to a modern plague, the number of deaths resulting from opioid overdose has now exceeded 400,000. Not surprisingly, suits have been filed seeking to assign responsibility for this crisis. Generally, they allege that pharmaceutical companies conducted misleading marketing campaigns that improperly influenced doctors and patients about the dangers of opioid addiction and overdose. These suits also allege that pharmaceutical companies and distributors ignored obvious signs that opioids were being distributed in exceedingly increasing numbers. Settlements are starting to follow, with McKesson agreeing to pay $37 million to settle West Virginia’s suit against the manufacturer on May 2, and Purdue Pharma agreeing to pay $270 million in late March to end Oklahoma’s suit against the manufacturer. Additionally, criminal charges have now followed for both pharmaceutical companies and prescribing physicians. In May 2019, for example, a Boston jury convicted the founder of Insys Therapeutics Inc., John Kapoor, among others, of conspiring to provide doctors with cash and other perks in exchange for their over-prescribing Insys’ pricey fentanyl spray. Similarly, doctors are being charged across the country with manslaughter or related charges stemming from their failure to responsibly monitor their patient’s conditions, including potential addiction.
Join us as Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP attorneys Howard R. Sklamberg and Stanley E. Woodward Jr. provide an overview of the current state of the legal landscape of the opioid epidemic and an assessment of where we go from here. Mr. Sklamberg is a partner in the Firm’s Health Care and Life Sciences practice and most-recently served as Deputy Commissioner for Global Regulatory Operations and Policy at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Mr. Woodward is a Senior Counsel in the Firm’s litigation practice and is responsible for managing high-stakes litigation for multi-national companies, including those facing product liability exposure.
- An overview of the opioid legal landscape (including pending civil and criminal suits);
- A practitioner’s insight into the potential exposure of companies in the opioid chain of production; and
- An expert’s assessment of the FDA’s path forward for mitigating risks presented by the opioid epidemic.