The Teamsters are concerned about how the opioid crisis is affecting its members and their health and welfare funds.
On April 18, a lawsuit was filed in Cleveland, Ohio on behalf of Teamsters’ Health and Welfare Funds in West Virginia and Ohio.
The union says they are targeting pharmacy benefit managers along with a range of opioid drug manufacturers and distributors alleging a highly-coordinated scheme promoting opioids to treat pain at the expense of Americans, including thousands of Teamster members, retirees and family members.
“The opioid crisis is devastating American families across the country particularly in communities where Teamsters work and live,” said Ken Hall, General Secretary-Treasurer of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters whose Local Union’s health and welfare fund in the hard-hit state of West Virginia is among the plaintiffs.
“Our nation’s pharmaceutical distributors and manufacturers have put profits before people and it’s got to stop,” Hall added.
These two states were chosen as West Virginia has suffered the highest opioid overdose death rate in the country. And in Ohio, which is home to 50,000 Teamster members, opioids are the main source of fatal drug overdoses.
The group points out that its members are more vulnerable to this crisss as they work in physically demanding jobs – such as construction and manufacturing – are at particularly high-risk because prescription opioids have been commonly prescribed to treat on-the-job injuries.
The lawsuit is claiming that “there is no long-term study showing the safety and efficacy of opioids for long-term use, but there re numerous studies clearly demonstrating the highly addictive quality of the drugs and their lethal effects even when used at recommended doses,” the group says.
The suit points out the “catastrophic effects on Teamster families and hurt the union’s health and welfare benefit funds.” The Teamster Health and Welfare Benefit Funds collectively provide health care coverage for thousands of active and retired Teamsters as well as their family members and bear much of the financial costs of opioid prescriptions – as well as treating dependence, abuse and addiction – by those it insures.