HUNTINGTON/CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ)  The cities of Huntington and Charleston, as well as the towns of Ceredo and Kenova, have joined forces in a lawsuit against the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Health Care Organizations (JCAHO) on the issue of allegedly “underestimating the dangers of opioid addiction.”

The lawsuit which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia, claims that the JCAHO “grossly underestimated the dangers of opioid addictions in setting pain management standards in 2001 and that its resulting – and continuing – misinformation campaign led to over-prescribing opioids to patients.”

The lawsuit goes on to say that this misinformation has resulted in the inappropriate provision of opioids to patients with disastrous consequences for individuals, adverse effects on families, and communities in West Virginia and throughout the nation.”
The lawsuit seeks class-action status in part to prohibit the JCAHO from continuing to enforce what the suit alleges are “dangerous standards” as accepted medical practice nationwide. It is also seeking damages to remedy the impact of JCAHO’s inadequate standards.

In a press release, Charleston Mayor, Danny Jones said, “No cities have been hit harder by the national opioid crisis than we have been, and no municipalities have a greater motivation to find solutions and prevent further opioid addiction than we do in Charleston, Huntington, Kenova, and Ceredo. If the Joint Commission’s pain management standards – and explanations that accompanied them – had accurately disclosed, rather than misrepresented, the risks of opioids to patients and physicians, it would have discouraged the use of opioids”. Instead, the over-prescription of these drugs has led to unnecessary tragedy in the communities.

WSAZ contacted the organization named in the lawsuit for comment. On Thursday afternoon, a spokesperson for the JCAHO said that they were not yet aware of any lawsuit.

This issue has become a public health crisis with devastating consequences. As seen throughout the history of medicine, science can be an important part of the solution in resolving such a public health crisis, but it seems that scientific research was largely absent from opioid medication.

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