While violent crime has been decreasing since the 1990s, drug overdose deaths have continued to increase. Today, more Americans die of drug overdoses than ever before. To what extent is the pharmaceutical industry to blame for these deaths, and will there be much successful legal action against them?
Father Craig Box cried in court when he thought of his son’s death. His son, Austin Box, died at 22 of an opiate overdose. His son had been a college football star, and now his life had been cut short less than a quarter of the way through. Craig Box’s legal case against a pharmaceutical company will set a legal precedent. Can a pharmaceutical company be liable for the harm that its drugs cause?
Back when Craig Box died, it was 2011 and deaths from opiates were not nearly as well known as they are today. Craig Box’s death was sudden and unexpected – his parents did not know that he was on the drugs. Opiates can kill a healthy person quickly. After getting in touch with other parents that had lost their children to opioids, Box found that he could participate in a massive legal case. The case will be decisive, opening the door for many more lawsuits in the future if it succeeds. The other parents involved were also unaware of the extent of the opioid crisis before their children’s deaths.
Opiate deaths have massively increased since Craig Box’s demise, especially for younger people. Adolescents, young adults, and even children have been dying more and more from drug overdoses. Under 18s are three times more likely to die of opiate overdoses than they were in 1999. One hundred thirty people die in America every day from Opioid overdoses. Is the pharmaceutical industry responsible for these deaths?
According to those who plan to sue the pharmaceutical industry, there was a malicious plan to promote opioid painkillers to doctors in spite of the known danger of these drugs. Attorney Mike Hunter describes a cynical strategy by which drug manufacturers convinced doctors to over-prescribe opioids. Craig Box is a lawyer himself and was in court when he heard that his son Austin was in the hospital. A few hours later, Austin had died of a combination of different drugs that he may have been taking in part to cope with the pain of sports injuries. Austin had no known previous history of drug abuse.
All across the United States, more than 2000 legal cases involving opiate deaths are beginning. Craig Box, Mike Hunter many other lawyers will be participating in such cases. As well as individuals, municipalities that have been struck by the crisis have also pressed legal cases. Sometimes, these drug overdose deaths have been called deaths of despair – something is depressing enough about the current decade that desperation drives people into fatal drug habits. While that may be true in part, the most significant cause of the opioid crisis may simply be the widespread availability of the drugs themselves. In any case, synthetic opioids have been proven too harmful to make widely available to the public, and we must replace them with less dangerous painkilling medications.