Sunday, September 23, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondiís lawsuit against the nationís largest drug makers and distributors marks a moment of awakening in the stateís battle to recover from the opioid crisis. In blunt, forceful language, Bondi accuses these companies of sparking the deadly opioid epidemic through sham marketing that reaped the defendants "billions of dollars" while causing "immense harm to the state of Florida." This is an important step in holding an industry accountable for the incredible damage that has wracked communities and families.

Bondi unveiled the lawsuit at a news conference this week where she was flanked by police, firefighters and families of opioid victims, underscoring her intent to put a human face to a crisis that has killed some 10,000 Floridians at a pace of about 15 a day in 2016. The suit targets some of the biggest drug manufacturers in the country, including Purdue Pharma, which makes the drugs OxyContin and Dilaudid, and Endo Pharmaceuticals, which makes Percocet and Opana. The defendants also include the drug distributors AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson. Bondi said the state has suffered massive losses in lives, health and productivity, and the costs have been significant for law enforcement, first responders and other portions of the social safety net. "Itís time the defendants pay for the pain and the destruction that they have caused," Bondi said.

The long-awaited lawsuit, filed in Pasco County, accuses the companies of violating their duty to keep opioids from being misused, alleging they engaged in deceptive trade practices and amounted to a public nuisance. It accuses drug manufacturers of misrepresenting the drugs to physicians and consumers to increase opioid prescriptions. Drug makers used front groups that appeared to be neutral third-parties to promote the use of opioids as safe. The suit also claims that drug makers paid "key opinion leaders" with speaking fees, food and travel to lend an air of legitimacy within their profession about the use of opioids for pain relief.

The distributors, Bondi said, "unconscionably violated" their duty to prevent opioids from being diverted to non-medical uses by "shipping hundreds of millions of opioids into Florida without sounding the alarm or stopping the shipments." These companies knew their customers were ordering an inordinately high number of opioids, the suit states, but "refused to report the suspicious" activity, turning "a blind eye to this activity in order to earn higher profits."

A spokesman for Purdue Pharma said they "vigorously deny these allegations and look forward to the opportunity to present our defense." In that spirit, both sides should commit to transparency as the discovery process proceeds so the public has the fullest picture possible of how this crisis evolved. Bondiís office has an obligation to keep the record open and accessible just as the defendants have an interest in answering the charges publicly.

Bondi has been criticized for taking so long to file the case. But the lawsuit adds to the court cases against the drug industry across the country, a critical mass that is more relevant to the issue than the timing of legal action by any individual state. The attorney general deserves credit for a robust complaint that aptly captures the human costs of the opioid crisis. Now Florida needs to vigorously prosecute its position in court.

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Editorial: Florida needs uniform standards for voting by mail

Editorial: Florida needs uniform standards for voting by mail

Vote by mail has been a stunning success in Florida, increasing turnout and making it easy and convenient to cast a ballot with time to research and reflect. But a new study shows that mail ballots cast by African-American, Hispanic or younger voters...
Published: 09/21/18
Editorial: Borrowers need protection from Marlin Financial

Editorial: Borrowers need protection from Marlin Financial

State and federal lending regulations exist to protect consumers from being surprised — and overwhelmed — by ballooning debt. Marlin Financial, a shadowy auto lender doing business around Florida, seems to be skirting those protections ...
Published: 09/21/18
Editorial: Putnam hire stinks of patronage, secrecy

Editorial: Putnam hire stinks of patronage, secrecy

In addition to a lesson on political patronage, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam needs a refresher on the particulars of state public records law.In January 2017, Putnam hired the 27-year-old son of a former Publix executive to a high-pay...
Published: 09/20/18
Editorial: Investigate first, then hold Kavanaugh confirmation vote

Editorial: Investigate first, then hold Kavanaugh confirmation vote

There should be a timely investigation of the allegation of sexual assault against Judge Brett Kavanaugh before senators hear from him and his accuser, let alone vote on whether they should confirm his nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court. The proces...
Published: 09/20/18
Editorial: Immigrants help to make America great

Editorial: Immigrants help to make America great

The heated debate on immigration could benefit from some more facts, which the U.S. Census has helpfully provided. And the facts show that rather than building walls, the United States would do far better to keep opening doors to legal immigrants. Th...
Published: 09/19/18
Updated: 09/20/18
Editorial: FDA acts to keep e-cigarettes from kids

Editorial: FDA acts to keep e-cigarettes from kids

The federal Food and Drug Administration is bringing important scrutiny to the increasing use of e-cigarettes, requiring companies that make and sell them to show they are keeping their products away from minors. Vaping is the new front in the nation...
Published: 09/18/18

Tuesday’s letters: Honor Flight restored my faith in America

Dogs are the best | Letter, Sept. 15Honor Flight restored my faith in AmericaJust as I was about to give up on our country due to divisiveness and and the divisions among its people and politicians, my pride was restored. As a member of the recen...
Published: 09/17/18
Updated: 09/19/18

Editorial cartoons for Sept. 18

From Times wires
Published: 09/17/18
Editorial: Senate should delay vote on Kavanaugh

Editorial: Senate should delay vote on Kavanaugh

The Senate and the nation needs to hear more about the sexual assault allegation against U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Setting aside Kavanaugh's judicial record, his political past and the hyper-partisan divide over his nomination, a no...
Published: 09/17/18
Editorial: Tampa council has another chance to show it takes Stovall House changes seriously

Editorial: Tampa council has another chance to show it takes Stovall House changes seriously

The Tampa City Council has yet to hear a compelling reason to allow a private social club in a residential neighborhood off Bayshore Boulevard, and a final meeting on the matter scheduled for Thursday offers the council a chance to show the diligence...
Published: 09/14/18