Missouri hospitals file suit against opioid industry

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Twelve Missouri hospitals have jointly filed suit against opioid manufacturers, distributors, and retailers, citing the company’s responsibility for the hospitals’ losses during the opioid crisis.

According to the lawsuit, between 2006 and 2014, opioid distributors shipped to Missouri the equivalent of 362 opioid doses for every man, woman, and child in the state, nearly 2.2 billion pills. By 2017, the number of opioid prescriptions in Missouri was higher than the national average – 71.8 opioid prescriptions for every 100 persons in Missouri. The national average is 58.7 prescriptions per every 100.

According to the suit, drug manufacturers’ deceptively marketed to hospitals and physicians, claiming that the drugs had a low risk of becoming an addiction, as well as overstating opioid’s benefits and downplaying the risks associated with long-term use.

Distributors and retailers, the lawsuit, said, ignored evidence that opioid use and misuse was becoming a crisis, and disregarded their duties to control the pills, as well as failed to take steps to halt suspicious orders.

“For almost two decades, hospitals have experienced financial harm addressing the fallout from the opioid crisis, and they continue to fund treatment for many opioid-addicted patients with little or no reimbursement,” said Greg Aleshire, an attorney with Aleshire Robb & Rapp, in Springfield, MO. “As the world steps back and stays home, hospitals serve on the front lines of the COVID-19 global pandemic, while continuing to suffer the financial and operational impact of the opioid epidemic. Hospitals need financial relief now more than ever to help ensure resources will be available to care for our communities.”

The hospital group joins more than 650 other hospitals across the country who have filed state-based lawsuits against opioid manufacturers, distributors, and retailers.

Hospitals say that widespread drug addiction increases costs on communities at the expense of health care and substance abuse treatment. Because hospitals are bound by their missions and federal law, they have a responsibility to stabilize and treat patients, regardless of their ability to pay.

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