Roughly 3,900 Pennsylvanians died of opioid-related overdoses last year.
State Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa wants Pennsylvania to sue pharmaceutical companies for what he characterizes as deceptive marketing of opioids.
In a release, Costa said pharmaceutical companies have misled doctors and the public about the addictive nature of opioids as well as their side effects.
“A lot of folks are very concerned about what’s taking place along those lines, and want to make sure they position their states, or counties, or municipalities to be able to address this issue,” said Costa. “Because it’s really draining.”
A 2010 study in the Pain Physician Journal found that Americans make up just 4.6 percent of the world’s population, but consume 80 percent of the world’s opioids. So while the opioid crisis has been fueled by companies’ marketing strategies, it’s one aspect of a much larger problem, Costa said.
“It’s also the manner in which we assess pain with respect to reimbursing our docs and our hospitals,” he said. “If you get someone who tells you they did a poor job managing your pain, you get less money. If you do a good job of managing somebody’s pain you get more money.”
But while those conversations proceed at the federal level, Costa said Pennsylvania can help hold pharmaceutical companies accountable. Costa said he’s been trying to get companies to help address the epidemic for a year.
“That fell on deaf ears. They’ve not been willing to participate, they don’t want to help the cause, and it’s disappointing,” he said. “So the next step is to force them to be part of the solution by going to court.”
Costa’s proposal for a resolution would direct any funds recouped through the courts to pay for drug, alcohol, and mental health treatment.
Pennsylvania would join Ohio, Mississippi, and West Virginia, all of which have filed suits against pharmaceutical companies’ marketing of opioids.
Costa expects a resolution to be introduced soon, and hopes the senate can consider the measure before the summer recess.