Two counties in California are now suing five of the country's largest manufactures of painkillers, blaming them for deceptive marketing that has led to increasing opioid addiction and deaths.
According to the Orange County Register, a 105-page lawsuit filed by District Attorney Tony Rackauckas accused the companies of spending millions of dollars to convince patients that painkillers should be taken for chronic pain.
The suit was readied by the Orange County and Santa Clara in behalf of the state of California.
The charge said the marketing chain made prescription opioids an $8 billion industry by 2010 and contributed to the deaths of 16,000 people who overdosed on the drugs.
"What we're after is to make these companies stop the practice of false advertising and false claims that these drugs are benign. The effort is to require them to be truthful," Rackauckas said.
Named in the suit were Johnson & Johnson's Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Purdue Pharma, Actavis, Endo Health Solutions Inc., and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries' Cephalon Inc.
An article by NBC Bay Area likened it to the cases filed against tobacco companies by many states two decades ago. The recent lawsuit accuses the companies of making false claims and misleading people into thinking their products are safe.
"The truth is, there is no scientific evidence these painkillers offer long-term pain relief for non-cancer pain, and they have a serious risk of addiction and abuse," Danny Chou, Santa Clara County assistant counsel, told NBC.
Sara Cody, public health officer of Santa Clara County, also said the drugs are now over-prescribed because of the deceptive marketing strategy.
"That has led to misuse, and now we have a rampant epidemic in the US," she said.
The lawsuit claimed that companies "overstated the benefits of using opioids long-term to treat chronic non-cancer pain, promising improvement in patients' function and quality of life."
It added that they "dismissed or minimized the serious risks and adverse outcomes of chronic opioid use, including the risk of addiction, overdose, and death."
According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, 16,651 people died in 2010 due to overdosing on opioid painkillers. It is said to be twice the number of deaths attributed to cocaine and heroin use.
With opioids becoming the third most abused substance in the United States, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, health officials continue to look for ways to curb and address the addiction.
Recently, interest has shifted to therapies that involve the use of anti-addiction medication.
BioCorRx's Start Fresh Program uses both naltrexone implants and life coaching to help patients rid of their dependence on painkillers or prescription drugs.
The company claims they have a very high success rate for patients who go through the six-month life coaching phase.
Naltrexone has long been used to address cravings for addictive substances by blocking the part of the brain that "feels pleasure" after the intake of alcohol or drugs. In implant form, it is able to last for at least six months in most people, keeping the patients sober while addressing the psycho-social aspect of their addiction.