It may be one of the most necessary “unfair” questions ever asked in a courtroom, and it certainly has people lining up on both sides of the issue. Are drug makers responsible for the “epidemic” of prescription painkiller abuse? This situation is causing quite a Healthcare PR uproar.
According to a report in Bloomberg Businessweek, Orange and Santa Clara counties in California have filed a suit alleging that pharmaceutical companies intentionally set out to turn rarely prescribed painkillers into “commonplace remedies.” The companies, according to the suit, downplayed the risk of addiction, and promoted the benefits of “chronic relief.”The suit goes on to allege that the drug companies intentionally deceived consumers, and even tried to undermine and reverse the common medical understanding of opioid drugs.
Both sides of the argument understand full well that this case will reach well beyond the courtroom. With expected wall to wall news coverage, the consumer PR angle is vitally important. Many people already suspect they are being treated more like consumers than patients. To find out it is literally true would create a firestorm of backlash. Whether or not the California counties “win” the case or the drug companies in question have to pay any sort of penalties, there will be an extensive and very public conversation about this case. And, whether or not the drug companies are found liable in the court, they will be held to account in the court of public opinion. Of course, they knew this, and are likely prepared, but it will be interesting to see how and when each side releases PR in an attempt to control the public opinion conversation.
There is no doubt that this fight will get ugly, and that both sides will end up playing both offense and defense. Motives will be loudly questioned, and accusations will be leveled. Should be interesting – and informative – to watch it all unfold.