The Teamsters union is suing pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors over their role in fueling the nation’s opioid crisis.
The lawsuit was filed April 18 on behalf of the Teamsters’ Health and Welfare Funds in West Virginia and Ohio.
The suit targets pharmacy benefit managers along with a range of opioid drug manufacturers and distributors. It accuses them of a highly-coordinated scheme promoting opioids to treat pain at the expense of Americans, including thousands of Teamster members, retirees and family members.
“Our nation’s pharmaceutical distributors and manufacturers have put profits before people and it’s got to stop,” said Ken Hall, the union’s general secretary-treasurer whose local union’s health and welfare fund is located in West Virginia.
West Virginia has suffered the highest opioid overdose death rate in the country, the union notes. In Ohio – home to 50,000 Teamster members – opioids are the main source of fatal drug overdoses.
“The opioid crisis is devastating American families across the country particularly in communities where Teamsters work and live,” Hall declared.
The suit is among the first attempting to hold accountable for their role in fueling the opioid epidemic the pharmacy benefit managers who administer and manage the prescription drug programs provided by the benefit plans.
The union points out that Teamsters in physically demanding jobs – like those in construction and manufacturing – are at particularly high-risk because prescription opioids have been commonly prescribed to treat on-the-job injuries.
“There is no long-term study showing the safety and efficacy of opioids for long-term use,” according to The Teamsters, “but there are numerous studies clearly demonstrating the highly addictive quality of the drugs and their lethal effects even when used at recommended doses.”