In the United States, the opioid epidemic is prevalent, and highly visible, nearly everywhere. In one downtrodden neighborhood after another across the nation, people in disarray due to the consumption of the drug can be seen wandering the streets in a zombie-like state, and not all of them look like they've hit rock bottom – but they're on the fast track to getting there.
With segments of the population, such as a small percentage of America's veterans, turning to opioid use to escape the hardships of life, the drug epidemic is a problem that can no longer be ignored.
Now, federal prosecutors are investigating whether pharmaceutical companies allowed opioids to flood the streets of America. The prosecutors, however, are deploying tactics leveraged to prosecute high-ranking drug dealers.
Going After the Culprits
If the prosecutors are successful, the case will be the most significant prosecution of pharmaceutical manufacturers alleged to have contributed to America's opioid dilemma. Six pharmaceutical manufacturers have received grand jury summonses from the U.S. Attorney's Office of the Eastern District of New York, including:
- AmericourceBergen Corporation
- Amneal Pharmaceuticals, Incorporated
- Johnson & Johnson
- McKesson Corporation
- Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, Limited
The businesses already face complex, multi-million-dollar civil litigation. This latest investigation only adds to their troubles. This year, for example, prosecutors are investigating whether company execs violated the Federal Control Substances Act.
A Johnson & Johnson spokesperson says that the company knows that the subpoena is just part of a broad, industrywide investigation. However, states the pharmaceutical rep, the company has policies and procedures in place to prevent opioid medication from being used by consumers for nonmedical reasons.
Meanwhile, a Teva spokesperson says that the company is cooperating with the subpoena and is confident in its drug use monitoring policies. McKesson and Amneal have not responded to inquiries about their involvement in the investigation and, AmericourceBergen as well as Mallinckrodt spokespersons have refused to comment to the press.
Is Anyone Being Held Accountable for This Crisis?
The manufacturer of OxyContin – Purdue Pharmaceuticals of Stamford, Connecticut – has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Still, some stakeholders want company executives to face criminal charges in relation to the opioid epidemic in America. Meanwhile, the Sackler family has offered to pay billions of dollars to municipalities and counties who are affected by the epidemic.
That's not enough recompense, according to U.S. Representative Max Rose. The New York Democrat states that the family doesn't belong in bankruptcy court and should be charged like the criminals and drug dealers that they are. In short, the lawmaker states that they belong in handcuffs. Also, Rose wants to take away every penny that the family has.
Purdue and other pharmaceutical companies have been compelled by judges to pay millions of dollars in settlements over civil lawsuits so far. To date, the mega-drug manufacturers have lost over 2,000 cases in the United States. According to U.S. prosecutors, there is overwhelming evidence that proves the companies pushed highly addictive opiates on consumers while at the same time downplaying the risk of addiction – and even overdoses.
Hitting Them Where It Hurts – in Their Pockets
To date, there are thousands of lawsuits remaining against pharmaceutical manufacturers who may have contributed to the opioid crisis. Overall, most of the lawsuits were raised by governments seeking financial compensation for the money that various municipalities have spent on dealing with the problem.
For instance, cities have spent a great deal of money responding to opioid-related emergencies. Meanwhile, distributors such as AmerisourceBergen, McKesson and Cardinal Health are in negotiations for a multibillion-dollar settlement regarding litigation filed against each respective company.
On the Front Lines of the Opioid Crisis
The opioid addiction epidemic comes at a particularly troublesome time. Already, institutions around the world are having trouble finding skilled professionals. In the future, there will be a sharply rising demand for nurse educators to help with the opioid epidemic in the U.S.
Still, many nurse educators who are a part of the baby boomer generation plan to retire by 2022. The healthcare vertical may lose half a million of them. Resultantly, there's going to be a huge talent gap in the field. If something isn't done soon, this exodus could have a significant negative impact on the welfare of American society.
In the days of the Bubonic and Black Plague, as well as through the measles and AIDS epidemics, nurses were on the front lines. Now, the opioid epidemic is killing 130 victims every day, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Still, nurse educators will remain on the front lines during what they can to help people.
Today, however, they'll have more powerful antidotes than the herbal remedies of the past. Now, nursing professionals have access to advanced technologies and medications. Despite this, the massive amount of human loss caused by the opioid epidemic is often emotionally unbearable.Still, remedying the opioid epidemic is an uphill battle. To date, for instance, six states have strict rules that prevent nurses from prescribing medicine to treat opioid-addicted individuals. Hopefully, this will soon change.