The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new numbers on the opioid crisis, saying the number of overdose visits to hospital emergency rooms soared last year, the latest evidence the nation’s drug crisis is getting worse.

Citing the increasingly high cost of treating patients who suffer an opioid overdose, an Arizona hospital is suing more than two dozen pharmaceutical companies.

Tucson Medical Center on Wednesday sued Johnson & Johnson, Abbott Laboratories, Cephalon Inc. and Purdue Pharma, among other manufacturers and distributors of opioids.

The lawsuit was filed in Pima County Superior Court and accuses the drug companies of negligence, fraud and conspiracy.

Hospital officials say drug manufacturers chose profit over patients, and created a “pharmaceutical Wild West,” where salespeople persuaded doctors to purchase and prescribe highly addictive and dangerous opioids that caused patients to become addicted.

“This case takes aim at the primary cause of the opioid crisis: A false narrative marketing scheme directly affecting hospitals like Tucson Medical Center who buy and administer opioids and provide medical care to increasing numbers of opioid-affected patients, who usually cannot pay for their care,” the lawsuit says.

During an 18-month period between April 1, 2016, and Sept. 30, 2017, Tucson Medical Center officials say they saw 22,000 patients with opioid-related conditions, which works out to about 40 patients per day.

“It is unacceptable to see patients — many of whom will face a lifelong struggle — suffering because of the negligence of pharmaceutical companies that are supposed to work hand in hand with us to help patients,” the Southern Arizona hospital’s chief legal officer, Tim Hartin, said in a news release.

“Our team is proud of the work we have continued to do, but this epidemic is threatening our ability to meet our mission. To that end, we bring this suit and seek to hold these companies accountable for the extreme suffering we are seeing on the front lines.”

The opioid crisis “threatens Tucson Medical Center in a way that it has not previously experienced in over 50 years since its founding,” the lawsuit states.

“Opioid addiction is a battle between life and death, and the staff of Tucson Medical Center are on the frontline, fighting daily to save the lives of patients and community members. With the demand for services ever-increasing, Tucson Medical Center’s resources are being stretched beyond their limit.”


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