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Good Morning, Buffalo: Lawsuits seek to pin blame for costs of opioid epidemic on drugmakers, pharmacies

Good Morning, Buffalo: Lawsuits seek to pin blame for costs of opioid epidemic on drugmakers, pharmacies

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May 10, 2021

2019: Purdue Pharma

Purdue Pharma, the company that made billions selling the prescription painkiller OxyContin, filed for bankruptcy in White Plains, days after reaching a tentative settlement with many of the state and local governments that had sued the company over the toll of opioids. 

Pain, costs of opioid crisis spur litigation

Ninety-seven million prescription pain pills were distributed in Niagara County between 2006 and 2014, enough to provide every resident 50 pills per year.

That was the second-highest rate for any county in the state over that period, behind only Sullivan County in the Catskills, according to federal data collected by the Washington Post.

Erie County, at nearly 48 pills per person a year, was third.

They were among the billions of doses of oxycodone and other powerful painkillers manufactured, prescribed and dispensed throughout the country over the past 20 years. The United States, with less than 5% of the world’s population, consumed 80% of its opioids.

“It’s mind-boggling,” said Karl G. Williams, a professor of pharmacy ethics and law at St. John Fisher College in Rochester. “How did we get there?”

For patients struggling with chronic pain, the drugs were a godsend. But their widespread, even indiscriminate use took a staggering toll.

Now a significant side effect of the opioid crisis is litigation.

State and local governments have filed suit against drugmakers and others in the opioid supply chain, arguing their misconduct fueled the painkiller abuse epidemic.

– Stephen T. Watson


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