The increase, in both the number of settlements and magnitude of opioid lawsuits being filed, is anticipated having a positive outcome on workers' compensation systems that have suffered the burden of opioid addiction and death in epidemic proportions.
|Dr. Rebecca Haffajee|
Historically, such mass torts of asbestos litigation and the State Attorney General's tobacco actions created safer work-environments and healthier workers. The benefit has had a significant impact on workers' compensation programs. The tobacco public entity claims amounted to a $246 Billion settlement over 25 years and contributed about $100 Billion to states alone for remedial action. The asbestos third-party claims benefit injured workers, their families and their household contacts, and they further subrogation reimbursement to the employers and insurance companies. Reimbursement is also available to Medicare under the Medical Secondary Payer Act.
A recent interview by Dr. Rebecca Haffajee about the growing number of lawsuits against opioid manufacturers and distributors highlights the potential positive outcome of opioid litigation for both the Federal and State governments, as well as other public entities. She anticipates that the Trump Administration will also ramp up litigation with the filing of additional lawsuits against the opioid industry. The resulting anticipated effect would be to change the practices of the pharmaceutical industry and to repair the harm allegedly done.
Dr. Haffajee reviews the historical development of the litigation from the early individual personal injury claims and class actions to what has snowballed into a massive onslaught of public entity claims. The early individual claims were based upon both failure to warm an ineffective design of the drugs. The difficulties with those claims were that the defenses of FDA approval, and intervening causality, ie. providers, and patients, were utilized by the pharmaceutical industry to challenge the lawsuits.
The opioid epidemic has claimed over 300,000 lives in the United States since 2000 and is predicted to claim an additional half million over the next decade. Public entity opioid litigation shows promise to make the workplace safer and motivate the pharmaceutical industry to change its ways and come to the table to work to help rectify the harm caused by opioid.
Click here to listen to the podcast: "Interview with Dr. Rebecca Haffajee on the growing number of lawsuits against opioid manufacturers and distributors." Supplement to the N Engl J Med 2017; 377:2301-2305
"Drug Companies’ Liability for the Opioid Epidemic", Rebecca L. Haffajee, J.D., Ph.D., M.P.H., and Michelle M. Mello, J.D., Ph.D., N Engl J Med 2017; 377:2301-2305 December 14, 2017 DOI: 10.1056/NEJMp1710756
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