Chicago and two California counties have filed two separate lawsuits against five drug makers for their “aggressive marketing” techniques that they alleged have fueled an epidemic of addiction and cost taxpayers millions of dollars in insurance claims and other health care costs, according to a story in The New York Times (”Chicago and 2 California Counties Sue Over Marketing of Painkillers,” Aug. 24, 2014).“The lawsuits assert that drug makers urged doctors to prescribe the drugs far beyond their traditional use to treat extreme conditions, such as acute pain after surgery or injury or cancer pain, while underplaying the high risk of addiction,” writes reporter John Schwartz. He goes on to say that “Such marketing, the plaintiffs say, has contributed to widespread abuse, addiction, overdose and death.”The goal of the opioid lawsuits was compared to those against the tobacco industries of the 1990s that addressed a public health problem and changes subsequently were enacted. “But there are differences: The $246 billion tobacco settlement involved a product that was at best lightly regulated, while narcotics are already heavily regulated by federal and state government.”Schwartz reports that the Chicago lawsuit alleges that “an estimate of about 1,100 emergency room visits in the city in 2009 could be attributed to opioid abuse and overdose, with the city paying $9.5 million in insurance claims for prescriptions since 2008 and much more in related health care costs.” He quotes Chicago’s Corporation Counsel, Stephen Patton, as saying, “’It was a suit we would not have brought unless we felt we had a rock-solid legal and factual basis for doing so.’”Chicago reportedly invoked its consumer fraud ordinance to subpoena internal documents from drug companies. The complaint alleges that the pharmaceutical manufacturers placed their desire for profits above the health and well-being of its customers, Schwartz reported. The reported purpose of the lawsuits is to tell patients and doctors that drugs, particularly those for chronic pain, can be addictive, which is dangerous.The entire story can be found at the New York Times’ web page.