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Mississippi hospitals sue opioid makers and sellers

Eleven Mississippi hospitals have filed a civil suit in the Circuit Court of Hinds County against manufacturers, distributors and retailers of opioid-based drugs. Mississippi hospitals have been on the front lines fighting and treating the complications of addiction as the opioid crisis has reached epidemic levels.

The Mississippi hospitals join more than 450 hospitals across the United States to file state-based lawsuits. Learn more about the devastating effects of the opioid epidemic on America’s hospitals at https://hospitalopioidcrisis.com/.

The Mississippi Business Journal reported earlier that Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch is one of many of her counterparts seeking a settlement with major drug distributors and manufacturers.

Sheis party tothe lawsuits against three distributors and manufacturers of opioids, McKesson Corp., AmerisourceBergen Corp. and Cardinal Health Inc. The preliminary settlement proposal of $18 billion with the three distributors continues to be negotiated.

The Wall Street Journal has reported that opioid-related deaths has reached at least 400,000 in the past 20 years.

Mississippi had one of the highest rates of opioid prescriptions in 2017, standing at 92.9 per 100,000 persons, fourth highest in the nation, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The U.S. rate was 58.7 prescriptions. The death rate for Mississippi from drug overdose – from opioids and other drugs and 14 other states was not available from the institute.

However, the federal Center for Disease Control reports that 185 people died in Mississippi in 2017 from opioid use, a rate of 6.4 per 100,000 people.

Mississippi was one of the top five opioid prescribing states in the nation in 2017. For every 100 persons, 92.9 opioid prescriptions were written, compared to the U.S. average of 58.7 prescriptions. In 2018, enough opioids were dispensed for every man, woman and child in Mississippi to have 50 doses each.

The opioid epidemic placed an incredible strain on the already overburdened health care system in Mississippi and throughout the country,” the Hinds County suit says. “Now our already stretched hospitals are dealing with the global COVID-19 pandemic and facing unprecedented levels of lost revenue, financial challenges, and supply and staffing shortages,” said Don Barrett, attorney with Barrett Law Group, representing the Mississippi hospitals. “But unlike the coronavirus, the opioid epidemic was man-made. The institutions that designed and profited from that crisis must be held accountable.”

 The Hinds County lawsuit takes aim at the primary cause of the opioid crisis – the false and deceptive marketing of the drugs, which was designed to dramatically increase the demand, distribution and sale of opioids. The suit alleges these practices resulted in opioid dependence, criminal activity, increased health care costs, serious health issues and the loss of life. 

The progression from prescription opioids to the use of illicit drugs, particularly injectable heroin, is well documented, with approximately 75 percent of heroin users reporting that their initial drug use was through a prescription, according to the lawsuit. As Mississippi citizens addicted to prescription opioids have predictably migrated to illicit, but less expensive, opioids, namely heroin and fentanyl, overdoses have dramatically increased.

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