Skip to main content

Analysis

Arkansas Hospitals File Suit Against Opioid Makers, Distributors

By John Commins  
   February 13, 2020

15 Arkansas hospitals are the latest of hundreds of other hospitals across the country challenging opioid makers and distributors. 

A handful of Arkansas hospitals, strapped by opioid-related care costs, are filing suit against the drug makers, distributors and retailers who peddle the addictive drug.

In a suit filed in Washington County Circuit Court, the 15 plaintiff hospitals allege negligence, fraud and civil conspiracy by the defendants, which include Purdue Pharma, Johnson & Johnson, Abbott Laboratories and more than 40 other companies and individuals involved in the manufacturing, distribution, and sales of prescription opioids.

"The manufacturers' deceptive marketing techniques and the active evasion of effective controls over the distribution of opioids by retailers and distributors have caused this ongoing crisis," said plaintiffs' attorney Thomas Thrash, of Thrash Law Firm P.A. in Little Rock.

"Other than the patients who have experienced devastating and often lethal consequences, hospitals were the most direct victims of this conspiracy," Thrash said. "Hospitals continue to provide desperately needed care, much of which is uncompensated, to effectively treat opioid-addicted patients and have saved countless lives."

The Arkansas hospitals are the latest of hundreds of other hospitals across the country that have filed suits against opioid makers and distributors.  

Arkansas ranks eighth in the United States for its opioid use rate, according to the state officials. 

Between 2000 and 2016, the drug overdose rate in the state rose from 5.4 per 100,000 people to 14 per 100,000. These increases came, the plaintiff hospitals allege, while the opioid makers, distributors and retailers "engineered a dramatic shift in how and when opioids were prescribed and used."

"They organized a complex scheme to overstate the benefits and trivialize the risk of long-term opioid use and minimized the risk of dependence among patients who used opioids to treat chronic pain," the suit alleges.  

The plaintiff hospitals cited a study in the Journal of Managed Care Pharmacy that showed opioid-related hospitalizations costs eight times more than the cost of treating patients without opioid use disorders.

A 2012 study in the journal Health Affairs found that the average opioid-related hospital stay for cost about $28,000, with 20% of those stays were covered by private insurance. The same study found the cost of that stay rocketed to an average of $107,000 if there was an associated infection, with only 14% of such patients covered by insurance.  

"For more than 20 years, virtually every hospital in the United States has provided and continues to provide some amount of totally uncompensated patient care as a direct result of the opioid crisis. This is not a sustainable trend," said plaintiffs' co-counsel Don Barrett.  

"America's hospitals can lead us out of the man-made health care disaster created by the defendants, but hospitals must receive new resources to help address two decades of financial loss," he said.

 

“America's hospitals can lead us out of the man-made health care disaster created by the defendants, but hospitals must receive new resources to help address two decades of financial loss.”

John Commins is a content specialist and online news editor for HealthLeaders, a Simplify Compliance brand.


KEY TAKEAWAYS

Arkansas ranks eighth in the United States for its opioid use rate.

Between 2000 and 2016, the drug overdose rate in Arkansas rose from 5.4 per 100,000 people to 14 per 100,000.

These increases came, the plaintiff hospitals allege, while the opioid makers, distributors and retailers "engineered a dramatic shift in how and when opioids were prescribed and used."


Get the latest on healthcare leadership in your inbox.