WV cities file lawsuit against health commission over opioid recommendations

November 3, 2017 GMT

HUNTINGTON — Several West Virginia cities have filed a federal lawsuit against a non-profit that accredits United States health care organization, accusing the group of downplaying the effects of opioids through its recommended pain management standards.

The cities of Huntington, Charleston, Kenova and Ceredo joined in filing the suit against the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Health Care Organizations for alleged “continued misinformation campaign” and for allegedly encouraging the over-prescription of opioids, which helped fuel the area’s drug epidemic.

The lawsuit is a separate action from a lawsuit filed against several drug firms.

According to a joint press release, the JCAHO announced in 2001 a new set of pain management standards and started a campaign to explain the standards. The cities accuse JCAHO of spreading misinformation about the addictive nature of the opioids.

The misinformation allegedly included statements like, “Some clinicians have inaccurate and exaggerated concerns about addiction, tolerance and risk of death. This attitude prevails despite the fact there is no evidence that addiction is a significant issue when persons are given opioids for pain control.”

The Huntington area has since been labeled as one of the hardest hit areas of opioid and heroin addiction in the United States. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, people who are addicted to prescription opioid painkillers are 40 times more likely to become addicted to heroin.

An April 2016 the JCAHO received a letter signed by 61 prominent health care professionals, who are part of the Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing, claiming their pain management standards encouraged unnecessary, unhelpful and unsafe pain treatments that interfered with primary disease management, the press release alleged.

JCAHO allegedly responded with a denial of any correlation between its pain management standards and opioid overprescribing.

Check back later for more on this developing story.