Sunday, July 15, 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: A vote for preserving waterfront parks by St. Petersburg City Council

Editorial: A vote for preserving waterfront parks by St. Petersburg City Council

The St. Petersburg City Council made the appropriate but difficult decision to reject a contract with renowned artist Janet Echelman for one of her aerial sculptures. It would be wonderful for the city to have one of her signature works, but Spa Beac...
Published: 07/13/18

ĎEverybody needed to know what happenedí

The brutal murder of Emmett Till, a black Chicago youth, in Mississippi nearly 63 years ago went unpunished, but not forgotten. A decision by his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, to allow an open casket at Emmettís Chicago funeral represented an act of def...
Published: 07/13/18
Editorial: Personal bias taints Floridaís clemency system

Editorial: Personal bias taints Floridaís clemency system

A recent exchange between the governor and Cabinet and a felon seeking to have his civil rights restored underscores the arbitrary unfairness of Floridaís clemency system. A long waiting period, a ridiculous backlog of cases and elected officials who...
Published: 07/11/18
Updated: 07/13/18

Trump should work with Congress on immigration

Donald Trumpís resounding victory in the 2016 presidential election came at least in part because the New York businessman grasped the disconnect between how millions of Americans and the political establishments of both parties felt about immigratio...
Published: 07/11/18
Updated: 07/13/18
Editorial: Trumpís trade war hurts American consumers

Editorial: Trumpís trade war hurts American consumers

Voters who looked to Donald Trump to make America great might want to look at their wallets. The president escalated his global trade war this week, threatening new tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports ó everything from seafood, beef and ...
Published: 07/11/18
Updated: 07/12/18
Editorial: Rays stadium cost should be fairly shared

Editorial: Rays stadium cost should be fairly shared

The imaginative Ybor City ballpark proposed by the Tampa Bay Rays fits nicely into the 21st century vision of a sophisticated city and would secure major league baseballís future for the entire region. It also carries an eye-catching cost that will h...
Published: 07/11/18
Updated: 07/12/18
Editorial: Supreme Court pick qualified, but confirmation process should be vigorous

Editorial: Supreme Court pick qualified, but confirmation process should be vigorous

For the second time in less than 18 months, President Donald Trump has nominated a well-qualified, conservative federal appeals court judge to the U.S. Supreme Court. That does not mean Judge Brett Kavanaugh should get an easy pass through Senate con...
Published: 07/10/18
Updated: 07/11/18
Editorial: Nobody uses fireworks to scare off birds

Editorial: Nobody uses fireworks to scare off birds

Americans are accustomed to celebrating the nationís birthday by blowing up Chinese fireworks for days ó a rite of recklessness that kills seven people a year and sends another 13,000 to hospital emergency rooms. The tragic toll struck close to home ...
Published: 07/09/18
Updated: 07/13/18
Editorial: Let local governments regulate short-term rentals

Editorial: Let local governments regulate short-term rentals

The Florida Legislatureís meddling in local issues has created another mess for neighborhoods across the state. No family should have to put up with a short-term rental next door that overwhelms their street with constant visitors, traffic and noise ...
Published: 07/09/18
Updated: 07/10/18
Editorial: The real forces behind mass shootings

Editorial: The real forces behind mass shootings

Itís the refrain by gun advocates in the wake of every mass shooting: The attacker was mentally ill. They obtained their gun illegally. The message is that gun violence isnít about guns but mental instability and gaps in law enforcement. But a recent...
Published: 07/08/18
Updated: 07/09/18