What We're Reading: Opioid Lawsuits; Pfizer's Drug Price Hikes; Rising Drug Deaths

The Difficulty of Suing Opioid Drug Makers

While the number of lawsuits accusing companies of exacerbating the opioid epidemic is increasing, the cases face large challenges. According to Reuters, the regulation of the pharmaceutical industry, and the fact that the FDA approved the opioids as safe and effective, could make it difficult for these lawsuits to succeed. Ohio recently sued 5 companies and is seeking to recover money spent on unnecessary opioid prescriptions and on addiction treatment. Mississippi, Chicago, and counties in New York and California have already filed lawsuits against the companies, who are being accused of deceptive marketing that downplayed the addictiveness of opioids.

Pfizer’s Steep Drug Price Hikes

While some pharmaceutical companies are placing voluntary caps on drug price increases, Pfizer has raised prices by an average of 20%. The Hill reported that Pfizer raised prices of 91 drugs on Thursday, which represents the second time the company raised prices this year. Other competitors have promised to raise prices once a year and by less than 10% or, in the case of Sanofi, to tie drug price increases to the national health expenditures growth projection, which is 5.4% in 2017. Allergan kicked off the wave of increased self-policing among pharmaceutical companies in September 2016.

Drug Overdose Deaths Continue to Rise

The overdose epidemic may be largely reported and more attention is being paid to preventing overdoses, but new evidence suggests the problem is worsening, The New York Times’ blog The Upshot reported. Drug overdose deaths in 2016 increased by 19% over 2015, according to an estimate by the Times of data from state health departments and county coroners and medical examiners. However, drug overdose deaths can be difficult to assign as the cause of death—deaths due to the long-term effects of drug abuse are not considered overdoses and there are inconsistencies between jurisdictions in how death certificates are filled out.