For seven days, the nation’s opioid-abuse epidemic was on trial in St. Louis. Opioids lost, says the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. A jury awarded a $17.6 million verdict, including $15 million in punitive damages, against a doctor and hospital. Brian Koon, a city parks employee, was prescribed more than 37,000 pain pills between 2008 and 2012 at levels far above those recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Send a message from coast to coast that this is not going to happen anymore,” pleaded attorney Tim Cronin, before the jury deliberated on punitive damages. The defendants were Dr. Henry Walden and St. Louis University. Koon, 45, a mechanical maintenance worker, saw Walden for back pain. He found himself on an ever increasing dose of opioids, highly addictive pain medications that some experts have blamed for the rise in heroin use across the nation. At one time, he was taking three different narcotics prescribed by Walden: Oxycontin, Vicodin and oxycodone. Walden’s attorney told the jury that his client “is nothing like the pill-pushing doctors” who define the opioid epidemic.