Drug Companies’ Liability for the Opioid Epidemic

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The opioid epidemic has claimed more than 300,000 lives in the United States since 20001 and could claim another half million over the next decade. Although heroin and illicitly manufactured fentanyl account for an increasing proportion of opioid-involved overdoses, the majority of persons with opioid addiction started with prescribed painkillers.2 The search for solutions has spread in many directions, and one tentacle is probing the legal accountability of companies that supply opioids to the prescription market. Even as the federal government, among others, pursues civil and criminal actions against physicians and pharmacies to address inappropriate prescribing and dispensing of opioids, a variety of lawsuits have been filed and continue to be filed against opioid manufacturers and distributors.2

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