Orange County and Santa Clara County, two California entitites with a combined population near 5 million, are filing suit against five pharmaceutical companies for what the counties' representatives say was a concerted campaign to promote risky, addictive drugs at the expense of public health and safety. From the Los Angeles Times:
In sweeping language reminiscent of the legal attack against the tobacco industry, the lawsuit alleges the drug companies have reaped blockbuster profits by manipulating doctors into believing the benefits of narcotic painkillers outweighed the risks, despite "a wealth of scientific evidence to the contrary." The effort "opened the floodgates" for such drugs and "the result has been catastrophic," the lawsuit contends.
The complaint accuses the companies of encouraging patients, including well-insured veterans and the elderly, to ask their doctors for the painkillers to treat common conditions such as headaches, arthritis and back pain.
Among the companies accused of malfeasance are subsidiaries of Johnson & Johnson and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, which are among the largest pharma corporations in the world. Another, Purdue Pharma, was fined $600 million and saw three of its executives plead guilty to criminal charges in 2007 after federal action over similar issues.