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New legal battle in fight over the opioid epidemic: suing the Joint Commission

Posted Thursday, November 16, 2017 by Tyler Goldberg-Hoss

Municipalities all over the country have begun filing lawsuits against the manufacturers and distributors of opioid medications, including here in Washington State.

However, in what appears to be a first of its kind, Cities in West Virginia have banded together to sue The Joint Commission, a non-profit accreditation entity, for spreading misinformation about the risks of opioid prescriptions and addiction, in part due to the cozy financial relationship it shared and shares with the manufacturers of the medication.

The Joint Commission is a nonprofit that accredits more than 20,000 health care organizations, including hospitals, across the US. Most every governmental entity in the US recognizes that the Joint Commission accreditation is a condition of licensure and receipt of Medicaid and Medicare reimbursements. The Joint Commission, then, is an authority in the US regarding safe practices in medicine.

The lawsuit claims that, starting with the first Pain Management Standards in 2001, the Joint Commission has downplayed the seriousness of opioid addiction, the result of collaborating on the standards with the makers of the drugs. This includes relying on research for these standards from groups who were accepting drug company money.

It is unclear whether the lawsuit will be successful, and even what “success” means in such a case. Certainly The Joint Commission does not have the deep pockets of some of the defendant manufacturers like Purdue Pharma. However, considering how accreditation from The Joint Commission is necessary for hospitals, it may put pressure on The Commission to relax pain management standards at West Virginia hospitals, so that the hospitals don’t have to choose between keeping their accreditation and prescribing fewer such drugs.

You can read an article on this here:

‘This is just the beginning’: Scope of opioid lawsuits widens to include hospital accreditor

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