Contaminated Relationships in the Opioid Crisis

72 Hastings Law Journal (2020 Forthcoming)

U of Alabama Legal Studies Research Paper No. 3562764

47 Pages Posted: 30 Mar 2020

See all articles by Benjamin J. McMichael

Benjamin J. McMichael

University of Alabama - School of Law

Elissa Philip Gentry

Florida State University - College of Law

Date Written: March 27, 2020

Abstract

Unlike past public health crises, the opioid crisis arose from within the healthcare system itself. Entities within that system, particularly opioid manufacturers, may bear some liability in sparking and perpetuating the current crisis. Unsurprisingly, the allegations underlying the thousands of claims filed in connection with the opioid crisis differ substantially. However, almost all of those claims rely, to some degree, on the strength of the relationship between opioid manufacturers and the healthcare providers who prescribed their products. This Article argues that the underlying relationship is the heart of the crisis and that this problematic relationship is by no means a thing of the past.

This Article provides critically important empirical evidence on the provider-manufacturer relationship. Analyzing a novel dataset constructed solely for this Article, we examine the role of payments from pharmaceutical companies to healthcare providers in inducing the latter to prescribe more opioids. Our analysis reveals robust and consistent empirical evidence that pharmaceutical companies continue to pay healthcare providers, and providers receiving higher levels of payments prescribe more opioids. Our analysis is limited to legal payments, so it cannot establish any basis of liability by itself. However, the relationships elucidated by our empirical evidence are the types that can facilitate the activities plaintiffs in the ongoing opioid litigation have alleged. Thus, the evidence developed and presented in this Article provides critically important insight into the role of manufacturers in the opioid crisis and into the litigation that crisis has generated.

Keywords: Opioids, opioid crisis, pharmaceutical company, opioid detailing

Suggested Citation

McMichael, Benjamin J. and Gentry, Elissa Philip, Contaminated Relationships in the Opioid Crisis (March 27, 2020). 72 Hastings Law Journal (2020 Forthcoming), U of Alabama Legal Studies Research Paper No. 3562764, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3562764

Benjamin J. McMichael (Contact Author)

University of Alabama - School of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 870382
Tuscaloosa, AL 35487
United States

Elissa Philip Gentry

Florida State University - College of Law ( email )

425 W. Jefferson Street
Tallahassee, FL 32306
United States

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