Hospitals still reeling from opioid epidemic, even as coronavirus brings new crisis
JACKSON, MS (STL.News) A group of 11 Mississippi hospitals have filed a civil suit in the Circuit Court of Hinds County against manufacturers, distributors and retailers of opioid-based drugs. Mississippi hospitals have been on the front lines fighting and treating the complications of addiction as the opioid crisis has reached epidemic levels.
Mississippi was one of the top five opioid prescribing states in the nation in 2017. For every 100 persons, 92.9 opioid prescriptions were written, compared to the U.S. average of 58.7 prescriptions. In 2018, enough opioids were dispensed for every man, woman and child in Mississippi to have 50 doses each.
“The opioid epidemic placed an incredible strain on the already overburdened health care system in Mississippi and throughout the country. Now our already stretched hospitals are dealing with the global COVID-19 pandemic and facing unprecedented levels of lost revenue, financial challenges, and supply and staffing shortages,” said Don Barrett, attorney with Barrett Law Group, P.A., representing the Mississippi hospitals. “But unlike the coronavirus, the opioid epidemic was man-made. The institutions that designed and profited from that crisis must be held accountable.”
The lawsuit takes aim at the primary cause of the opioid crisis – the false and deceptive marketing of the drugs, which was designed to dramatically increase the demand, distribution and sale of opioids. The suit alleges these practices resulted in opioid dependence, criminal activity, increased health care costs, serious health issues and the loss of life.
Hospitals in Mississippi and across the country are legally and morally required to treat patients with opioid dependence and opioid-related health conditions, regardless of their ability to pay. More than any other kind of institution, hospitals have borne the financial brunt of the opioid crisis. A study from the Journal of Managed Care Pharmacy showed the average health care costs for those diagnosed with an opioid use disorder were eight times higher than those without this disorder.
The progression from prescription opioids to the use of illicit drugs, particularly injectable heroin, is well documented, with approximately 75% of heroin users reporting that their initial drug use was through a prescription. As Mississippi citizens addicted to prescription opioids have predictably migrated to illicit, but less expensive, opioids, namely heroin and fentanyl, overdoses have dramatically increased.
The Mississippi hospitals join more than 450 hospitals across the United States to file state-based lawsuits against the manufacturers, distributors and retailers responsible for the opioid crisis. Learn more about the devastating effects of the opioid epidemic on America’s hospitals at https://hospitalopioidcrisis.com/.