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A Public Health Emergency
The opioid epidemic began in the late 1990s after pharmaceutical companies lied to the medical community by claiming that patients couldn’t become addicted to opioid pain relievers. Healthcare providers immediately started prescribing opioids at increasing rates, leading to widespread misuse of both prescription and non-prescription drugs. By 2016, over 200,000 Americans had died from overdoses related to prescription opioids. This staggering statistic encouraged the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to declare a public health emergency the following year.
Attorney General Ashley Moody Fights on Behalf of Floridians
Approximately 6,000 Floridians passed away from opioid overdoses in 2016. To combat this alarming epidemic, Attorney General Ashley Moody is endorsing legislation that would help her file lawsuits against negligent pharmacies and drug companies.
On April 29, 2019, the House unanimously approved House Bill 1253, a bill that will give Moody access to the Florida Department of Health’s prescription drug database. This database was originally developed to hinder “doctor shopping” by drug traffickers and abusers.
Moody hopes the database information will reinforce Florida’s lawsuit against those who are guilty of:
- Misrepresenting opioid products
- Filling suspicious drug orders
According to Scott Keeler of the Tampa Bay Time, “Moody wants access to the state’s prescription drug database to bolster Florida’s lawsuit against the nation’s largest drug makers, distributors and pharmacies, which the state reasonably accuses of recklessly supplying Floridians with drugs…Moody needs the database to show specific examples that Walgreens, along with its rival CVS, ‘raced to sell as many opioids as possible’ while failing to stop suspicious shipments of drugs.”
Unfortunately, this bill – as well as Senate Bill 1700, a Senate companion bill – has struggled to become law because many politicians are reluctant to stand against big corporations. In fact, many of the companies being sued are lobbying lawmakers to prevent these bills from passing. As Chief Deputy Attorney General John Guard told lawmakers, “The only ones opposing this bill are the ones being sued, specifically Walgreens.”
Senator Benacquisto Stalls Jeopardizes Florida’s Multi-Billion Lawsuit
SB 1700 has stalled in the committee of Senator Lizbeth Benacquisto, a Fort Myers Republican and the sister-in-law of a Walgreens lobbyist. Benacquisto claims that her decision is related to privacy concerns, not a conflict of interest. However, the bill itself counters this assumption: there are protections in place to prevent public disclosure, and Moody will only have access to a patient’s age, county, city, and ZIP code. Plus, this information could only be used in civil, criminal, or administrative lawsuits against pharmacies or dispensaries, not against victims of the epidemic.
The Benefits of House Bill 451
House Bill 451 is now headed to Governor Ron De Santis. If it’s approved, physicians will need to inform their patients of non-opioid alternatives before prescribing, ordering, dispensing, or administering opioid drugs. They also need to explain the advantages and disadvantages of non-opioid alternatives and provide patients with an educational pamphlet created by the Florida Department of Health. Of course, this policy does not apply in emergency situations or affect pharmacists who dispense opioids. If the Governor signs this bill, it will become effective on July 1, 2019.
Explore Your Legal Options with a Qualified Legal Professional
At The Ferraro Law Firm, we believe in holding negligent pharmacies and drug companies responsible for their actions. If you require legal representation, contact our firm to discuss your case with one of our experienced trial attorneys. Since our founding 30 years ago, we have helped our clients recover billions of dollars in settlements and verdicts. No matter the complexity of your case, you can trust our legal team to fiercely represent your interests both in and out of court.