November 09, 2017 | | Comments 0
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West Virginia cities sue Joint Commission over alleged role in opioid crisis

Four West Virginia cities and towns filed a class-action lawsuit against The Joint Commission and Joint Commission Resources on November 2, claiming the accreditor “grossly misrepresented the addictive qualities of opioids” in their pain management standards. The town of Ceredo and cities of Charleston, Huntington, and Kenova claim that those standards forced hospitals to prescribe unsafe amounts of painkillers, fueling addiction and deaths in the state. [Is there any dollar amount named in the lawsuit? What is it asking for?]

“This lawsuit is a critical move toward eliminating the source of opioid addiction and holding one of the most culpable parties responsible,” said Huntington Mayor Steve Williams. “For too long, [The Joint Commission] has operated in concert with opioid producers to establish pain management guidelines that feature the use of opioids virtually without restriction. The [commission’s] standards are based on bad science, if they are based on any science at all.”

West Virginia has the highest drug overdose death rate in the nation, with 41.5 deaths per 100,000 in 2015. Huntington and Cabell County had the highest overdose fatality rate in the state last year.

The lawsuit claims that the pharmaceutical companies like Purdue Pharma (the makers of OxyContin) worked with The Joint Commission to create the pain management standards. These companies stood to gain from the overuse of their drugs, the lawsuit claims.

The Joint Commission accredits at least 10 hospitals and healthcare facilities in Charleston and Huntington, and other cities and towns are expected to join the federal lawsuit.

The Joint Commission updated its pain management standards in June to reduce over prescriptions, which will take effect on January 1. However, the lawsuit says the accreditor waited too long to make those changes.

This isn’t the first time that The Joint Commission has come under fire either. In 2016 more than 60 medical experts and nonprofit organizations signed petitions asking the commission to change its standards. Claiming they “foster dangerous pain control practices, the endpoint of which is often the inappropriate provision of opioids with disastrous adverse consequences for individuals, families, and communities.”

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Filed Under: AccreditationJoint Commission ChangesJoint Commission ResourcesNational News

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Brian Ward About the Author: Brian Ward is an Associate Editor at HCPro working on accreditation news.

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