Tuesday, September 18, 2018
Editorials

A legal response to the opioid crisis

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine filed a lawsuit against five leading opioid painkiller manufacturers May 31, accusing them of misleadingly minimizing the real addiction risks associated with the powerful pills, thus triggering the nationwide epidemic of opioid addiction and death.

DeWine brought his case in an Ohio state court, choosing as his venue the courthouse in Chillicothe, a small city whose struggle with the addiction crisis was the subject of a heartbreaking report by the Washington Post's Joel Achenbach.

This suit joins similar efforts against the drug companies filed by jurisdictions as different as Everett, Wash., which has charged Purdue Pharma with failing to blow the whistle on massive diversion of its product to that city's black market, and the Cherokee Nation, which is suing pharmacy chains and their wholesale suppliers on similar allegations.

We hasten to add that all of the companies accused, Purdue Pharma included, deny any wrongdoing, and argue that they work hard to comply with federal regulations and prevent the improper use of their products. It is also true that, even though the opioid lawsuits are often compared to the litigation that ultimately held Big Tobacco accountable, prescription opioids have legitimate health uses, unlike cigarettes.

The fact remains, however, that more than 183,000 people have died in the United States from overdoses related to prescription opioids between 1999 and 2015, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Such deaths were rare prior to the 1990s, when prescription opioids became commonly prescribed for non-cancer pain — at the urging of the pharmaceutical industry's marketing teams. DeWine's lawsuit and others like it might not be equivalent to the tobacco lawsuits, legally or morally, but they express widespread and understandable public feeling. They amount to a cri de coeur in the courtroom.

Whether these uphill legal battles actually succeed or not, we hope litigation pressures everyone in the prescription opioid supply chain to reveal more clearly what they knew, and when they knew it, about the addictive properties of these products and their mass diversion into dubious "pill mills." Perhaps the states won't achieve a settlement on the scale of the $206 billion tobacco case, but there's an opportunity to make industry pay more of the costs of addiction prevention and treatment, which are imposing tremendous hardship on local governments across the country.

Alas, any accountability imposed through litigation is necessarily retrospective — which means unsatisfactory. We have an opioid crisis in large part because gatekeepers at every level — from the Food and Drug Administration to the medical profession — either could not or would not prevent it. These institutions have awakened to the mistakes they made in the past and have set about correcting them, in some cases as zealously as they once promoted opioids.

Resort to the state courts, in that sense, represents not even a second-best solution to the opioid crisis, or even a third-best. Perhaps, though, by administering justice, however rough or limited, the suits can reinforce the bitter lessons of this avoidable crisis, thus helping assure it is never repeated.

Comments

Wednesday’s letters: How home rule can help fight Red Tide

Red Tide on march | Sept. 18How home rule can help fight Red TideAt the end of 2005, as Red Tide ravaged the beaches and intracoastal waterways of Southwest Florida, volunteers from the Suncoast Sierra Club formed a coastal task force to begin de...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Cartoons for Wednesday, Sept. 19

Cartoons for Wednesday, Sept. 19

Editorial cartoons from Times wires
Updated: 4 hours ago
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...
Updated: 6 hours ago

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: 09/18/18

Editorial cartoons for Sept. 18

From Times wires
Published: 09/17/18

Column: We’re measuring the economy all wrong

Ten years after the collapse of Lehman Bros., the official economic statistics — the ones that fill news stories, television shows and presidential tweets — say that the U.S. economy is fully recovered.The unemployment rate is lower tha...
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
Editorial: Focus on Hurricane Florence, not defending poor response in Puerto Rico

Editorial: Focus on Hurricane Florence, not defending poor response in Puerto Rico

Hurricane Florence began lashing down on the Carolinas Thursday and was expected to make landfall early Friday, washing over dunes, downing trees and power lines and putting some 10 million people in the path of a potentially catastrophic storm. Flor...
Published: 09/13/18
Editorial: Scott sends positive signal on Supreme Court appointments

Editorial: Scott sends positive signal on Supreme Court appointments

Gov. Rick Scott has headed down a dangerous path by announcing he has started the process to fill three upcoming vacancies on the Florida Supreme Court as he heads out the door. But to his credit, the governor indicated his "expectation’’ is that he ...
Published: 09/12/18
Updated: 09/14/18