Northwest Arkansas hospitals file lawsuit against opioid distributors, manufacturers


FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KFTA) — A group of Northwest Arkansas hospitals joined others across the state to file a lawsuit against opioid distributors, manufacturers and marketers.

Fayetteville Arkansas Hospital Company, Siloam Springs Arkansas Company, Northwest Arkansas Hospitals and others make up the 15-hospital team that filed in the Washington County Circuit Court. The claim accuses more than 40 companies, including Johnson & Johnson, Purdue Pharma, Abbott Laboratories and CVS, of fraud, negligence and civil conspiracy.

“They intentionally and falsely marketed these opioids for daily use, for daily chronic pain, when they know that’s not what they were designed for,” said Thomas Thrash, an attorney for Thrash Law Firm in Little Rock.

Thrash is on the team representing the Northwest Arkansas hospitals. He said high-profile companies purposefully neglected to stop a growing opioid crisis in Arkansas.

Arkansas is No. 2 in the nation for opiate overprescription, according to Arkansas Take Back statistics. Those same statistics show synthetic opiate-related deaths have spiked, while semi-synthetic and natural opioid deaths are also on the rise. This information proves to be an outlier to recent federal reports that show a decline in drug overdoses for the first time in 28 years.

“There’s just extra pills around for others to use it and non-prescription use and to feed addictions,” said Dr. Randy Conover, a family physician in Centerton.

Opioids have benefits when not abused, Conover said.

“Not everyone gets addicted when they use an opioid, but some can,” Conover said. “Many do.”

The addictive properties and overprescription played a big role in the state’s epidemic, Conover said.

“There’s a buzz to it. There’s a euphoria to it,” Conover said. “That component, that’s the addictive part. Where it’s like, ‘okay, I need my chocolate ice cream, and guess what, my body is wanting higher doses to get the same effect.'”

Doctors played a role in the crisis, Thrash said, but a 335-page complaint laid out the argument that pharmaceutical companies knew they were sending too many medications to Arkansas and didn’t stop.

“They have little red flags that give them an indication that there’s a problem here. There’s too many opioids,” Thrash said. “We’re shipping too many into this pharmacy. We’re shipping too many into this county. We’re shipping too many into this state.”

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