Jacksonville City Councilman Bll Gulliford wants the city to hire a law firm to sue companies that make and distribute prescription painkillers.
He contends the drug makers are partly responsible for the spike in opioid overdose deaths in Jacksonville.
The allegations are that companies fraudulently marketed opioids as safe treatments for a wide variety of pain conditions that led to widespread use of the drug and sparked a nationwide epidemic of opioid addiction. It’s a plague that has had a startling effect on our city, too —there were 464 overdose deaths last year.
Gulliford has proposed that the suit would involve a contingency, so there would be minimal cost to taxpayers. It would not be a class action suit, so only governments could receive awards.
We asked members of our Email Interactive Group to weigh in with their views on Gulliford’s idea.
Drug makers of opioids need to be stopped, but they pay legislators big money. As long as Big Pharma pulls the strings, the drug makers won’t be stopped — until people demand that it be done.
Our legislators like to rail against legalizing marijuana, which would help the pain control issues. We need an attitude adjustment toward this issue.
Patricia Gruden, Ponte Vedra
A PHYSICIAN SAYS NO
As a physician who has seen the rise of opioid overuse and misuse the last 25 years, I say the manufacturers are far down on my list of people to blame.
I am an emergency department physician and do not recall having an opioid pharmaceutical company present information that the meds were less addictive.
The narcotics in question are classified by the FDA as Schedule II narcotics, which implies highly addictive.
The largest cause of the increase in prescribing patterns in the U.S. started when the federal government began tracking how physicians treated pain.
Pain became the “fifth vital sign.” If doctors or hospitals were not deemed to be giving patients appropriate pain medication, often they did not receive full funding or payments. Also the Press-Ganey patient satisfaction survey systems that take care of pain encouraged doctors to prescribe more narcotics.
Why can’t Americans tolerate pain?
Ultimately, people need to be responsible for their use of opioids. Tylenol and ibuprofen are often enough to alleviate the more uncomfortable pain. Unfortunately, we as a society demand no pain and often ask for narcotics for even mild pain syndromes.
Physicians have begun to stop prescribing them for chronic pain syndromes, such as low back pain, because studies show that non-narcotics work just as well in the long run without the addiction possibilities of narcotics.
When someone steps over that societal line from abusing prescribed meds to buying street opioids, it is clear that there is a problem, and individuals need to take responsibility for their use and abuse of these drugs.
Decriminalize drug use and abuse, funnel the court and police funds used to fight the War on Drugs into treatment centers and education, and stop placing blame on those who are low on the list of culprits responsible for this current crisis.
Ronald Brace, physician, Jacksonville
A NURSE SAYS YES
Well, as a retired nurse, I’m inclined to say yes to suing those that attorneys can prove that incorrect data was on the labels! People have to be more accountable at all levels of life in America. Someone is going to have to put those folks on trial and devise a better safety plan to prevent what is preventable.
Salli Cartledge, Middleburg
EMPATHY FOR DOCTORS
I am for the lawsuit. Perhaps it will slow down this slippery slope we are on that leads to more waste, crime, death. If the pain is truly physical and the facts show this to be the case, we still need physicians to treat with their usual integrity. Doctors don’t like being on the horns of a dilemma: negligence or malpractice?
Have a little mercy on these doctors.
Rev. James Black, Jacksonville
HUMAN TOLL IS STUNNING
I have heard our first responders speak several times about the human toll this is taking. Somehow the manufacturers benefit without ever paying the damaging costs of their greed and destruction.
Pat Vail, Arlington
WE CAN’T SUE EVERYONE
Should the city sue vehicle manufacturers or gun makers or food producers since food causes obesity?
I am a physician, and at no time was I ever told that opioids are not addictive by any pharmaceutical company.
There is no doubt that these drugs are highly addictive and should be used judiciously. People become addicted very quickly. It is very difficult to get patients off opioids despite our best efforts.
Anthony Vetere, physician, Ponte Vedra Beach
MATTER OF PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY
People need to take responsibility for their own well-being. There are enough lawsuits in the U.S.
Dottie Cahill, Fleming Island
DON’T HURT LEGITIMATE USE
I’m a nurse with 20 years of experience in hospital care. If you ever have surgery, especially bone surgery, you will be glad to have opiates that you can use.
The patient is taught how to use the painkillers, and the medicine comes with detailed instructions.
Most doctors and patients do not abuse opiates. I believe in personal responsibility, so my answer is “absolutely not” as far as suing the companies. Shall we sue the companies that make alcohol and cigarettes as well? Unfortunately, if someone wants to abuse their meds, there’s not much that can be done. Physicians are heavily regulated in Florida as to how they write for pain meds. It’s better to go after the criminal element.
T. McCormack, Lake City