Tuesday, November 20, 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.

Comments
Editorial: Hillsborough commissioners’ parting gift for phosphate

Editorial: Hillsborough commissioners’ parting gift for phosphate

There was no rush to approve Mosaic’s request to pipe clay into the county -- except politics.
Published: 11/19/18
Editorial: Hurricanes and wildfires show the need to fight climate change now

Editorial: Hurricanes and wildfires show the need to fight climate change now

Wildfires and hurricanes show we’re living with devastating climate change. Congress should create a national catastrophe fund and a carbon tax.
Published: 11/19/18
Column: Following through on Hillsborough education referendum

Column: Following through on Hillsborough education referendum

Your vote sends a message to our leaders that we value education.
Published: 11/16/18
Editorial: No substitute for state support of schools

Editorial: No substitute for state support of schools

Local referendums cannot make up for Tallahassee’s cuts.
Published: 11/16/18
Editorial: Riverwalk a defining civic space in Tampa

Editorial: Riverwalk a defining civic space in Tampa

Tampa's Riverwalk continues to grow into its own.This month, the American Planning Association named the linear park along the Hillsborough River through downtown Tampa as the winner of its "People's Choice" award. Part of the association's...
Published: 11/16/18
Editorial: Fee on single-use bags reasonable

Editorial: Fee on single-use bags reasonable

St. Petersburg’s proposed 5-cent fee on shopping bags could encourage better consumer habits.
Published: 11/16/18
Editorial: The enormous public cost of domestic violence

Editorial: The enormous public cost of domestic violence

Domestic violence carries a huge price tag in addition to the human toll.
Published: 11/15/18
Editorial: Warren takes positive step to advance justice in Hillsborough

Editorial: Warren takes positive step to advance justice in Hillsborough

The Conviction Review Unit follows through on a campaign pledge to review past conviction cases.
Published: 11/14/18
Editorial: Tone down the rhetoric, focus on counting votes

Editorial: Tone down the rhetoric, focus on counting votes

President Donald Trump, Sen. Marco Rubio and Gov. Rick Scott should stop making unfounded claims of voter fraud.
Published: 11/13/18
Editorial: Get Hillsborough transit priorities in shape

Editorial: Get Hillsborough transit priorities in shape

Hillsborough County scored a historic win this month when voters approved a one-cent sales tax to pay for transportation improvements. The $9 billion or more it will generate over the next 30 years should transform mobility across the region and impr...
Published: 11/12/18