A Juul in the hand…(credit)
When a San Diego-based mother posted an emergency alert on Nextdoor, a community discussion app, she hoped a Good Samaritan could help, according to court filings, reports The Washington Post. Her son was hysterical after losing a flash drive with his homework near the local McDonald’s, she wrote, uploading a photo along with the message. A neighbor quickly replied, explaining that the chewing-gum-sized object in the picture was not a flash drive: It was a Juul vaping device. “That’s just an indication of how quickly Juuls became prevalent,” recounted Esfand Nafisi, a lawyer who is handling two of three lawsuits initiated against Juul Labs last month. “You blinked your eye, and suddenly they were all over the place.”
“I think Juul has been insincere from the very beginning in saying it’s only for adult smokers,” said Robert Jackler, principal investigator at a Stanford University School of Medicine program that studies the impact of tobacco advertising. He noted that Juul Labs executives have boasted that they run “the most educated company, the most diligent, the most well-researched.”
Two recent court cases challenge Juul’s practices.
Read the complaintfiled against Juul in United States District Court Southern District of New York in June 2018.
Read the complaintfiled in United States District Court District of Northern California in April 2018.
The Washington Post reports that Dick’s Sporting Goods will no longer sell assault-style firearms, will ban high-capacity magazines and will not sell any guns to people younger than 21, the company announced Wednesday, a significant move for the retail giant in the midst of renewed calls for national gun reform. Chief executive Edward W. Stack made the announcement during an appearance on “Good Morning America”, as well as through a company statement that said “thoughts and prayers are not enough” in the wake of America’s latest mass shooting. Two weeks ago, a gunman killed 17 people, most of them teenagers, in Parkland, Fla., with an AR-15 that was legally purchased. The alleged shooter, Nikolas Cruz, bought a shotgun from a Dick’s store in November, Stack said during the television interview.
As journalistic and legislative scrutiny of the role of the pharmaceutical industry in the opioid epidemic continues, several new reports focus on the potential of litigation to curb Big Pharma abuses.
In The New England Journal of Medicine, Rebecca Haffajee and Michelle Mello, two public health lawyers, examine drug companies’ liability for the opioid epidemic. They describe five legal rationales for litigation against opioid makers and distributors that federal and state government agencies have used:
- Blaming the industry for unreasonably interfering with public health by oversaturating the market with drugs and failing to guard against misuse and diversion,
- Charging the industry with deceptive marketing that makes false claims about effectiveness and addictiveness,
- Accusing the industry for lax monitoring of suspicious opioid orders, a potential violation of the federal Controlled Substance Act,
- Asserting that the industry continued to promote opioid use despite mounting evidence lining the product to adverse health outcomes,
- Alleging that the industry accrued profits at the government’s expense through unfair business practices.
The authors outline some of the challenges facing litigation against opioid manufacturers but conclude that “litigation could help alleviate the opioid epidemic by changing industry practices and building public awareness.”
In an Oklahoma lawsuit recently described in The New York Times, a lawyer is using the Cherokee Nation tribal court to sue Walmart, Walgreens and CVS Health, as well as McKesson and other major drug distributors, for violating federal drug monitoring laws(reason 3 above) and enabling prescription opioids to flood into the Cherokee nation. “I believe these companies target populations” Todd Hembree, the Cherokee Nation attorney general, told The New York Times. “They know Native Americans have higher rates of addiction. So when they direct their product here, they shouldn’t be surprised to find themselves in a Cherokee court.”
The Washington Post and 60 Minutes investigated the failure of the U.S. Department of Justice to follow the recommendation of a Drug Enforcement Agency task force working across 11 states to revoke registrations to distribute controlled substances at some of the 30 drug warehouses of The McKesson Corporation, the nation’s largest drug company. The DEA team wanted to fine the company more than $1 billion and bring the first criminal case against a drug distribution company. Instead, reports The Post, “top attorneys at the DEA and the Justice Department struck a deal earlier this year with the corporation and its powerful lawyers, an agreement that was far more lenient than the field division wanted…. Although the agents and investigators said they had plenty of evidence and wanted criminal charges, they were unable to convince the U.S. attorney in Denver that they had enough to bring a case.”
Note to Corporations and Health Watch readers: Our next post will be on January 3,2018. Happy New Year!
In May, Maryland became the first state to take action against the alarming trend of price gouging of off-patent brand-name and generic drugs, writes Jeremy Greene in an op-ed in The Washington Post. The state’s concise new law, which permits the attorney general to argue in front of a court when the price of an older essential medication increases so precipitously as to “shock the conscience,” passed with overwhelming bipartisan votes and broad popular support. The generic pharmaceutical industry would prefer to see it overturned. While the problem of pharmaceutical pricing is felt most keenly in newer specialty drugs that can cost more than $30,000 a year, interpretations of federal patent law limit the ability of states to protect residents from price increases in these newer drugs whose monopolies are protected by patents.
Court documents filed this week allege that five auto companies were aware of defects that caused Takata air bags to potentially harm or kill motorists but continued to use them anyway to save on costs, reports The Washington Post. The documents claim that Honda, Ford, BMW, Toyota and Nissan have known about the issues with the Japanese manufacturer’s air bags for more than a decade but still used them because Takata was cheaper than its competitors and could produce the bulk quantities the automakers needed, according to the court documents.
A decade ago, according to a new series of articles in The Washington Post, the Drug Enforcement Administration launched an aggressive campaign to curb a rising opioid epidemic that was claiming thousands of American lives each year. The DEA began to target wholesale companies that distributed hundreds of millions of highly addictive pills to the corrupt pharmacies and pill mills that illegally sold the drugs for street use.
Leading the campaign was the agency’s Office of Diversion Control, whose investigators around the country began filing civil cases against the distributors, issuing orders to immediately suspend the flow of drugs and generating large fines.
But the industry fought back. Former DEA and Justice Department officials hired by drug companies began pressing for a softer approach. In early 2012, the deputy attorney general summoned the DEA’s diversion chief to an unusual meeting over a case against two major drug companies. Read more.