Hospitals experience significant financial and operational harm as opioid crisis continues
EVERGREEN, Ala., Sept. 10, 2019 /PRNewswire/ — After two decades of providing frontline care in response to the opioid crisis, a group of 21 Alabama hospitals have filed a civil lawsuit in Conecuh County Circuit Court against the manufacturers, distributors, and retailers of opioid-based drugs. As the opioid crisis has reached epidemic levels, Alabama hospitals have made substantial investments in people, processes and facilities to properly care for patients who have multiple health problems associated with treating the complications of opioid addiction.
The complaint alleges defendants engaged in a decades-long practice of making false assurances about the addiction risks associated with opioid products and used other deceptive marketing tactics to persuade physicians and health care providers to broaden prescribing patterns. The result has been widespread addiction, suffering, and loss of life in communities across Alabama and the nation, with hospitals bearing the financial burden of care and treatment for the victims.
In 2017, 107.2 opioid prescriptions were written for every 100 people in Alabama, the highest prescribing rate in the country and nearly twice as high as the national average of 58.7 per person. There were 167 deaths involving prescription opioids in Alabama in 2017, an increase from 124 in 2016.
“The deceptive marketing efforts of the defendants substantially contributed to an explosion in the use of opioids across the country – and the aftereffects are felt in hospitals every single day,” said Robert King, attorney with The King Law Firm, representing the hospitals. “Hospitals have provided heroic levels of care to opioid-addicted patients and saved countless lives. But the financial, operational and emotional expense for hospitals is staggering. The defendants are at the root of this crisis.”
Industry analysts estimate the country’s healthcare system incurred more than $215.7 billion in costs related to the opioid crisis from 2001 to 2017. The costs were largely attributable to overdose-related emergency department visits.
The hospitals’ complaint alleges negligence, fraud and civil conspiracy by the defendants, which include Purdue Pharma, Johnson & Johnson, Abbott Laboratories and more than 40 other companies and individuals involved in the manufacturing, distribution, and sales of prescription opioids.
“With the appropriate financial resources, no party is better positioned to lead us out of this public health crisis than hospitals,” said Stephen Farmer, attorney with Farmer Cline & Campbell PLLC.
“Hospitals have experienced significant, measurable damages and must be active participants in any opioid settlement discussions,” adds Farmer, who serves as additional counsel for the plaintiffs.
Last month, former Ohio Governor John Kasich and West Virginia University President Dr. Gordon Gee recognized hospitals’ unique position to positively impact the opioid crisis by announcing the formation of Citizens for Effective Opioid Treatment at 130aday.com. The 501(c)(4) organization is working to educate business and community leaders and the public about the negative impact the crisis is having on the nation’s health care infrastructure while advancing evidence-based solutions to the opioid epidemic.
Also last month, the American Hospital Association urged a judge hearing one of the opioid cases “to ensure that needed funds are directed to the hospitals and health systems that are on the forefront of caring for the victims of this epidemic. With additional resources, hospitals can broaden access to post-overdose treatment in emergency departments, increase training of physicians to treat substance use disorders, cover the costs of lengthy stays and follow-up care for infants with neonatal abstinence disorder, and invest in electronic health information systems to improve coordinated care and prevent overprescribing.”
The Alabama hospitals join hundreds of other hospitals across the country that have filed similar suits against opioid manufacturers and distributors.
The Alabama hospitals who filed suit this month include:
- DCH Health Care facilities in Tuscaloosa, Northport and Fayette
- Baptist Health medical centers in Montgomery and Prattville
- Medical West in Bessemer
- Evergreen Medical Center in Evergreen
- Jackson Medical Center in Jackson
- Flowers Hospital in Dothan
- Medical Center Enterprise in Enterprise
- Grandview Medical Center in Birmingham
- Gadsden Regional Medical Center in Gadsden
- South Baldwin Regional Hospital in Foley
- Grove Hill Memorial Hospital in Grove Hill
- Princeton Baptist in Birmingham
- Walker Baptist Medical Center in Jasper
- Shelby Baptist Medical Center in Alabaster
- Citizens Baptist Medical Center in Talladega
- Brookwood Baptist in Birmingham