DuPage, Kane, Will, McHenry and Lake Counties File Complaints over Opioid Epidemic and Addiction

Illinois’ DuPage County, Kane County, Will County, and McHenry County are filing lawsuits against some of the nation’s largest pharmaceutical companies and physicians over the aggressive and fraudulent marketing of prescription opioid painkillers. This corporate-caused drug epidemic is being fought by countless Illinois families and has led to thousands of overdoses and hundreds of deaths in 2017 alone.

In addition, Lake County, Illinois, has joined the coalition of counties and filed a similar lawsuit this morning against some of the country’s largest pharmaceutical companies.

Meyers & Flowers and Simmons Hanly Conroy, two of the nation’s largest law firms focused on consumer protection and mass tort actions, are representing DuPage, Kane, Will and McHenry counties. Paul Hanly, Shareholder at Simmons Hanly Conroy and Peter J. Flowers, a Founding Partner at Meyers & Flowers, will be serving as co-counsel.

In the individual county complaints filed this morning in Illinois State Court, the five counties seek relief including compensatory and punitive damages for the millions of dollars they spend each year to combat drug-related crimes and the public nuisance created by the drug companies’ deceptive marketing campaign. In addition to monetary damages, the counties are seeking to enjoin the defendants and prohibit them from their continued unfair and deceptive acts and practices.

The defendants in the lawsuits for DuPage County, Kane County, Will County, and McHenry County are: Purdue Pharma L.P.; Purdue Pharma, Inc.; The Purdue Frederick Company, Inc.; Abbott Laboratories; Abbott Laboratories, Inc.; Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc.; Cephalon, Inc.; Johnson & Johnson; Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; Janssen Pharmaceutica, Inc.; Endo Health Solutions Inc.; Endo Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; Dr. Perry Fine; Dr. Scott Fishman; and Dr. Lynn Webster.

According to data from the Illinois Department of Public Health, opioids contributed to nearly 1,200 overdose deaths in Illinois in 2016. The Illinois Department of Public Health reports that more Illinoisans died from an opioid-related drug overdose (due to heroin and prescription opioid pain relievers) in 2014 than from homicide or motor vehicle accidents. Illinois is one of 14 states that has seen an 8.3 percent increase in overdose deaths.

In 2015, the Counties experienced over 247 opioid deaths.

  • DuPage County – approximately 51 deaths
  • Kane County – approximately 35 deaths
  • Will County – approximately 53 deaths
  • McHenry County – approximately 28 deaths
  • Lake County – approximately 70 deaths

Kane County, like many other counties in Illinois, has seen a rise in the number of deaths and overdoses related to opioids. County Coroner Rob Russell, who is part of the Chicagoland Area Opioid Task Force, found that Kane County had 27 total drug deaths in 2012. By 2016, there were 45 opioid overdose deaths in Kane County.

Apart from the toll on human life, the crisis has financially strained the services the counties provide its residents and employees. Human services, social services, court services, law enforcement services, the office of the coroner/medical examiner and health services, including hospital, emergency and ambulatory services, have all been severely impacted by the crisis. For example, as a direct and foreseeable consequence of the defendants’ egregious conduct, the counties have paid, and continue to pay, millions of dollars for health care costs stemming from prescription opioid dependency.

These costs include unnecessary and excessive opioid prescriptions, substance abuse treatment services, ambulatory services, emergency department services, and inpatient hospital services, among others. The defendants’ conduct also caused the counties to incur substantial economic, administrative and social costs relating to opioid addiction and abuse, including criminal justice costs, victimization costs, child protective services costs, lost productivity costs, and education and prevention program costs, among others.

The lawsuit alleges the defendants sought to create a false perception in the minds of physicians, patients, health care providers and health care payers that using opioids to treat chronic pain was safe for most patients and that the drugs’ benefits outweighed the risks. This was allegedly perpetrated through a civil conspiracy involving a coordinated, sophisticated and highly deceptive (unbranded to evade the extensive regulatory framework governing branded communications) promotion and marketing campaign that began in the late 1990s, became more aggressive around 2006, and is ongoing. Specifically, the complaints detail how the defendants allegedly poured significant financial resources into generating articles, continuing medical education courses and other “educational” materials, conducting sales visits to doctors, and supporting a network of professional societies and advocacy groups – all of which were successful in the intended purpose of creating a new and phony “consensus” supporting the long-term use of opioids.