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Lawsuits claim drug makers downplayed risks, side effects

When a doctor in Texas prescribes medication to treat a health condition, whether it is for diabetes, heart disease or even asthma, patients accept that it is safe to take. They may ask about the drug's side effects, but the thought that it may hurt them probably does not enter their mind.

Unfortunately, that is not always the case. Drug makers continue to face lawsuits for a variety of reasons, including failure to disclose potential risks and side effects, false reporting to the FDA about ongoing studies and false advertising of drug benefits.

The New York Times reports on a lawsuit against pharmaceutical manufacturer Celgene, which awaits judicial approval after reaching a nearly $280 million settlement in late July. The U.S. government and several states sued the company for inappropriate marketing of cancer drugs. The suit claims that Celgene misrepresented the medications as treatment for other health issues they have not been approved to treat.

The problem of drug misrepresentation goes much deeper, however. Several plaintiffs have brought lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies in the past several years. This includes a similar suit against GlaxoSmithKline in 2012 for marketing its well-known antidepressants for the treatment of additional health issues. The British manufacturer paid $3 billion in fines to settle charges of misrepresenting these and several other drugs it makes.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that the state of Ohio is seeking money to combat a crisis of opioid addiction and overdose deaths. It is suing five drug makers for contributing to the crisis by intentionally misleading doctors and patients.

Ohio claims the companies, which include Johnson and Johnson and Purdue Pharma, committed fraud in marketing addictive painkillers. The companies represented the painkillers as being nonaddictive when the opposite is true, the suit alleges. Other states are also suing the makers for these same reasons.

Plaintiffs in these various suits are patients who suffer serious side effects and additional health problems as a result of misrepresented drugs. These problems include blood clots, heart attacks, stroke, increased cancer risk, depression and suicide. Lawsuits filed on behalf of state and federal governments include a range of patients who received medication through Medicare, Medicaid and Veterans Administration programs.

Although drug manufacturers have settled in some cases, these settlements do not include an admission of guilt or responsibility.

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