Sets Strict Standards for Its Marketing of Opioids
SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CALIF. – On Thursday July 20th the Santa Clara County Counsel’s Office announced a breakthrough agreement that requires Pfizer Inc. to adhere to strict standards in its marketing of opioids, a class of highly addictive prescription painkillers often used to treat common, chronic conditions like back pain and arthritis. Among other things, Pfizer has committed to fairly and accurately describe the benefits and risks of opioids, including the serious risk of addiction, abuse, and misuse, in its promotional activities and communications.
“This agreement is an important step in ensuring that doctors and patients in California receive accurate information about the risks and benefits of these highly addictive painkillers,” explained Santa Clara County Counsel James R. Williams. “Such information is essential to curbing—and ultimately ending—the opioid epidemic plaguing Santa Clara County, the State of California, and many parts of the country.”
In addition, Pfizer has agreed not to make any claims that conflict with the Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in March 2016. Pfizer has also agreed not to support organizations and individuals that make misleading statements about the risks and benefits of opioids for the treatment of chronic pain. The Santa Clara County Counsel’s Office did not pursue any legal action against Pfizer and has made no finding of any wrongdoing by the company.
“We applaud Pfizer’s willingness to work with us to combat the dramatic rise in opioid misuse, abuse, and addiction in California and the corresponding rise in overdose deaths, hospitalizations, and crime,” said Danny Chou, an Assistant County Counsel for the County of Santa Clara. “Pfizer has set a stringent standard that we expect all other opioid manufacturers to meet.”
In May 2014, the Santa Clara County Counsel’s Office filed a lawsuit against five of the largest manufacturers of prescription opioid painkillers, alleging that those manufacturers falsely downplayed the risks, and grossly exaggerated the benefits, of opioids for the treatment of chronic pain. The lawsuit further alleges that these manufacturers reaped billions of dollars in profit from their deceptive marketing schemes at the expense of millions of Americans who have misused, abused, or become addicted to prescription painkillers.
A significant settlement was recently announced with Teva Pharmaceuticals, leaving four major defendants in the lawsuit. An amended complaint, making additional allegations particularly regarding several defendants’ deceptive marketing of abuse-deterrent formulations of their opioids, was filed July 7, 2017. The lawsuit is: People of the State of California v. Purdue Pharma, et al., Orange County Superior Court, Case No. CGC-13-534108.