A major opioid manufacturer paid a software company to create a pop-up ad that would appear when doctors opened patients’ electronic medical records, asking about the patient’s level of pain and suggesting various treatments including a referral to a pain specialist and a prescription for an opioid painkiller.
The unnamed opioid company (later determined to be OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma) paid Big Tech company Practice Fusion nearly $1 million to create the tool, which alerted doctors about its opioid treatment about 230 million times from 2016 through spring 2019. The drug company estimated that the tool could bring in about 3,000 patients and increase its opioid sales as much as $11.3 million.
“The pharmaceutical industry was egregious in advancing and propelling the access of opioids to a wider and wider population,” Harvard Medical School Professor Bertha Madras told Bloomberg, adding that the arrangement the drug company had with Practice Fusion was “nefarious and subtle.”
The arrangement was uncovered last week by during a government investigation. Practice Fusion agreed to pay $145 million to relieve itself of criminal and civil charges, according to documents filed in Vermont federal court. The software company was purchased by Allscripts Healthcare Solutions Inc., for $100 million in 2018.
During the years that Practice Fusion was pushing highly addictive opioids to doctors as they were reviewing patients’ medical records, the number of opioid overdose deaths was increasing in epidemic proportions. Hundreds of cities and counties filed lawsuits against opioid manufacturers, including Purdue Pharma, holding them accountable for overdose deaths and economic damages caused by opioids by creating and fueling a national opioid epidemic.
Lawyers in Beasley Allen’s Mass Torts Section are representing local governments holding opioid companies accountable for overdose deaths and economic damages in their communities caused by the opioid crisis. Attorneys are also investigating cases of serious injuries and illness – including addiction and overdose – related to opioid use and abuse, as well as cases of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) in babies born to mothers addicted to opioids. For more information, contact Melissa Prickett or Liz Eiland.