For the last 20 years, the U.S. has been the world's leading opioid prescriber -- by a long shot. Over the last 10 of those 20 years, there have been a number of regulatory actions against opioid producers and distributors based on alleged improper marketing, labeling and failure to report suspicious orders. These actions, combined, have resulted in fines totalling hundreds of millions of dollars in the U.S. Who noticed? State attorneys general, towns, municipalities, tribes, and others noticed… and many filed civil actions asserting that the opioid epidemic caused billions in damages. Among the damages: increased public health costs, rehabilitation costs, law enforcement costs and public employment costs. While there had been scattered civil litigation against opioid manufacturers, distributors and wholesale pharmacies prior to 2017, the launch of civil filings followed the recent sequence of regulatory enforcement actions.
Presently, there are more than 700 opioid cases consolidated in a federal multi-district litigation (MDL) proceeding in Ohio, and there are hundreds of other matters pending in state courts. Against the backdrop of vigorous substantive defenses asserted by the defendant entities, is an entire tier of insurance coverage issues. The primary issues of insurance interest are whether insurers have a duty to defend and/or whether they have a duty to indemnify claims arising out of the opioid crisis. A handful of existing coverage cases tell us that coverage results have been mixed and often depend on state law, policy language and the causes of action pled.
If you want to know more about why the U.S. has an opioid crisis and explore a roadmap of the key
coverage issues, please read Swiss Re's latest Trend Spotlight on the topic: http://media.swissre.com/documents/2018_06_trend_spotlight_opioids.pdf