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Palm Beach County Sues Walmart and CVS Over Opioid Crisis

Palm Beach County Sues Walmart and CVS Over Opioid Crisis

Written by: stodzy | Date: May 2, 2018

In an attempt to regain some of the money that has been spent on tackling the opioid crisis in Palm Beach, the county has filed suit against over a dozen individuals and companies. Their claim? That these big companies such as Walmart, CVS, and Johnson and Johnson have been using deceptive trading and negligence that have helped fuel that opioid crisis in the area.

The Effects

It is no secret that the effects of the opioid and heroin crisis are a real problem in our nation today. However, research has shown that despite the overwhelming numbers of death so far, they show no signs of stopping.

This could be due to the introduction of the deadly chemical compound, carfentanil. While yes, overdose deaths from opioids are still occurring, this has by far become the major killer in Palm Beach County. For example:

  • 254 Palm Beach County residents overdosed on fentanyl or carfentanil within the first 6 months of 2017.
  • These deadly drugs have now been found to be mixed into cocaine, resulting in a 59% increase in cocaine overdoses and deaths in the first 6 months of 2017
  • Palm Beach County currently leads the state in opioid-related deaths, with more overdose deaths than five-sixths of the counties combined.

The Scope

The scope of the cases that Palm Beach County has filed is immense. With over 25 different defendants on the docket, this lawsuit is no small measure. However, according to the complaint, the case is about more than just settling for money.

“This case is about one thing: corporate greed. Defendants put their desire for profits above the health and well-being of Palm Beach County consumers at the cost of the plaintiff,” the complaint states.

Other countries around the country have been taking part in cases such as these, where evidence reports malicious and negligent business ethics at play by these major pharmaceutical companies and businesses.

According to the case, the opioid crisis has not only affected the financial stability of the county, but also areas such as homelessness, foster care, emergency services, and law enforcement.

It goes without saying that the emotional and psychological backlash of those family members and loved ones who have been affected by the ever-rising overdose rates is a definite driving force in the reclamation of the counties wellbeing, safety, and financial security.

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The Defendants

Among the list of defendants are major, household name companies such as Walmart, CVS, and Johnson and Johnson. However, some of the lesser known companies and individuals are being charged with bribing prescribers to boost prescription sales, deceptive marketing, fraudulent marketing, misleading medical education, funding false presentations, unjust enrichment, and deceptive sales training.

Some of the other defendants included in the complaint were:

  • Walgreens
  • Purdue Pharma
  • Teva Pharmaceuticals
  • Watson Laboratories
  • Insys Therapeutic
  • Cardinal Health

Many of these companies are also involved in suits across the country for the same charges. For example, states such as Ohio, New York, California, and West Virginia have filed similar complaints against companies such as Teva, Watson, Purdue, and Cardinal Health for their misleading business practices and excessive flooding of addictive prescriptions into underprivileged areas.

The Tactics

One could wonder, why these doctors and medical professionals would give in to the bribery of these big business’, despite their oath to uphold truthful and honest medical practices. After all of the schooling, the financial aid loans, and the hours spent to become practitioners, why would these medical professionals be willing to throw all that away for a quick buck or free dinners?

According to one medical marketing expert, these sales reps exploit the weaknesses of doctors with flattery and friendship, and in some cases, “companionship”.

According to Alec Burlakoff, former sales chief for Insys Therapeutics, “When you are dealing with doctors who are around pain and cancer all day, an empathetic and caring salesperson is helpful.” Burlakoff was later charged for using sham speakers to bribe doctors to prescribe the fentanyl drug Subsys to patients.

Dr. Adriane Fugh-Berman, a pharmacology professor at Georgetown University and director of PharmedOut, states that medical sales representatives are well trained and armed with the best tactics of pulling medical professionals heartstrings.

“Drug company reps are trained to asses doctors personalities, practice styles, and preferences so they can influence prescribing… Physicians are overworked, overwhelmed, buried in paperwork and they feel unappreciated,” she states.

Some cases have even been reported of bribery with escorts, dates, and perks such as cruises and tickets for expensive music or sporting events. For a medical professional who is going through a time of change, such as a divorce, opening up a practice, closing a practice, or one who just has a crazy patient load, these small tricks and bribes can be easily rationalized with, “you deserve it”.

The Roadblocks

It is pretty well known that many of these companies are well protected to the point of being almost untouchable on these subjects. That being said, the likelihood of losing a case such as this could be catastrophic for the county financially.

While there have been settlements from these mega-companies in the past, losing this case could mean coughing up huge amounts of money for court costs and attorney fees. One major concern in this arena is taxpayer dollars.

The scope and duration of this case would be immense, meaning that those court fees and attorney fees could become pretty substantial, so some commissioners are working to protect the taxpayer by mandating that any firm that covers the case will be responsible for covering any and all costs that could potentially arise.

However, this creates a little bit of an ethical snag, as the Florida Bar prohibits firms providing financial assistance to clients and covering costs against successful lawsuits.  

As for now, the case is only in its beginning days, so time will tell the outcome. In the meantime, the opioid epidemic and the carfentanil rampage are still wildly underway.

Getting Help at Wayside House

If you are a woman struggling with addiction and mental health issues, Wayside House can help. We offer a women-only program and provide a safe, supportive environment to recover in. We have outstanding treatments and therapies that are often only found in more expensive programs. We offer inpatient rehab with various therapies, relapse prevention education, outpatient, and aftercare, as well as services for medical professionals and veterans. Contact Wayside House at 800-655-0817 to learn more.