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Make Big Pharma Pay its Share to Solve the Opioid Crisis

The opioid epidemic is the most serious public health crisis facing Americans. Big pharmaceutical companies that have made billions of dollars by pushing opioids for years should be held accountable. At least 23 states and numerous local prosecutors have sued those that have acted like Big Tobacco — profiting from opioid sales while misleading the public about the dangers. The “Opioid Accountability Act” helps state attorneys general and local prosecutors hold opioid manufacturers and marketers accountable for this costly epidemic.

The National Landscape

Passed in:

Arizona, Alabama, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky (12), Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, West Virginia

Introduced in:

Wisconsin (12)
Even if a state has enacted a policy, there may be aspects to be strengthened. We can help identify ways to improve lives in your state. Please reach out to our State Line: 1-833-STATES-1.

In The News

“'As Purdue got rich from sales of its opioids, Texans and others across the nation were swept up in a public health crisis that led to tens of thousands of deaths each year due to opioid overdoses,' [Texas Attorney General Ken] Paxton said.”
“Even though there were those who needed expanded access to painkillers, the push to de-stigmatize the drugs… leaned heavily on misleading research which suggested that drugs like OxyContin were safe and not addictive.”


  • Health care providers
  • Families
  • Addiction recovery advocates
  • State attorneys general and local prosecutors


  • Pharmaceutical companies that may face these suits
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The State Line


How does this hold Big Pharma accountable?
Using a similar playbook to the one pioneered to sue tobacco companies, a state or locality files suit alleging unfair and deceptive practices. These lawsuits detail the damage wrought by opioid use and addiction in a certain area, and can show that pharmaceutical companies and marketers knew about the dangers of opioids and opioid addiction when they were making and marketing the drugs.
Does suing pharmaceutical companies really help people who are dealing with opioid abuse?
States can use funds received from these suits to cover healthcare costs, improve treatment and provide other support for people facing the crisis. By holding companies accountable for misleading people and increasing opioid addiction, these suits also help ensure systemic changes to reduce new and ongoing abuse.

Model Policy

This act shall be known as the Opioid Accountability Act..

To hold opioid manufacturers and marketers accountable for the costly epidemic of opioid abuse.


(a) The Department of Health is hereby directed to compile and deliver to the legislature, Governor, and Attorney General, information regarding:
  • (1) the number of people who have died in STATE of causes related to opioid abuse, misuse or overdose, annually from 1999 to present, statewide and by county;
  • (2) information regarding the number of in-patient hospital stays in STATE annually from 1999 to present attributable to (i) opioid-related hospital use, (ii) opioid abuse, and (iii) opioid overdose;
  • (3) estimates of the annual costs from 1999 to present of prescription opioid abuse and misuse in STATE, taking into account costs such as excess medical and prescription costs, lost earnings from premature deaths, and costs of correctional facility and police services.
  • (4) information on the annual number of parents who have died of causes related to opioid abuse, misuse or overdose, from 1999 to present, and the impact of those deaths on the foster care system in STATE and counties in STATE;
  • (5) information on the incidence of Hepatitis-C, sepsis, endocarditis and other diseases linked to use of sharing needles for drug injections from 1999 to present in STATE and counties in STATE, and information on how the incidence of those diseases over time correlates rates of opioid use, misuse and overdose by geographic region;
  • (6) Any other notable health or economic costs or impacts experienced by STATE or counties within STATE as a results of use, misuse, abuse or overdose of opioids.

(b) The above information shall be updated at least annually.

(c) The Department shall annually review publicly-available information about lawsuits related to opioid use, abuse, or overdose brought by STATE Attorney Generals or county prosecutors in the STATES surrounding STATE and four other STATES that have brought such lawsuits, and produce a summary of the key elements of such lawsuits to be provided to the Legislature, Governor and Attorney General. The Attorney General shall provide this report by mail to county and other prosecutors.

(d) The Attorney General and local and county prosecutors are empowered to request from the Department of Health additional health or cost related statistics regarding opioid use, abuse, addiction or overdose that would be useful to enforce the laws of STATE.