Franklin County Joins the Fight against Manufacturers & Distributors of Opioid Painkillers

Franklin County, IN – Simmons Hanly Conroy, one of the nation’s largest law firms focused on consumer protection and mass tort actions, and Crueger Dickinson LLC, a leading Wisconsin law firm focused on high-stakes litigation, together filed today a lawsuit on behalf of Franklin County, Indiana, against pharmaceutical companies and drug distributors over the aggressive and fraudulent marketing of prescription opioid painkillers that has led to a drug epidemic in the county and throughout the nation.

The defendants in the lawsuit include drug makers Purdue Pharma, L.P.; Purdue Pharma, Inc.; The Purdue Frederick Company, Inc.; Endo Health Solutions Inc.; Endo Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; Johnson & Johnson; Noramco, Inc.; Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; Janssen Pharmaceutica, Inc.; Teva Pharmaceuticals Industries, Ltd.; Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc.; Cephalon, Inc.; Allergan PLC f/k/a Actavis PLC; Watson Pharmaceuticals, Inc. n/k/a Actavis, Inc.; Watson Laboratories, Inc.; Actavis LLC; Actavis Pharma, Inc. f/k/a Watson Pharma, Inc.; Insys Therapeutics, Inc., Mallinckrodt, PLC; Mallinckrodt, LLC; Cardinal Health, Inc.; McKesson Corporation; AmerisourceBergen Drug Corporation; CVS Health Corporation; the Kroger Co.; RiteAid of Maryland, Inc. d/b/a RiteAid Mid-Atlantic Customer Support Center, Inc.; Walgreens Boots Alliance, Inc. a/k/a Walgreen Co., and Wal-Mart Inc., f/k/a Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., H.D. Smith Wholesale Drug Co., and Miami-Luken, Inc.

In the complaint, the county seeks relief for the cost to the County to combat the public nuisance created by the drug companies’ deceptive marketing campaign that misrepresents the safety and efficacy of long-term opioid use.  Additionally, the complaint alleges that the crisis was fueled and sustained by those involved in the supply chain of opioids, including manufacturers, distributors, and pharmacies, who failed to maintain effective controls over the distribution of prescription opioids, and who instead have actively sought to evade such controls.

“Together, with Simmons Hanly Conroy, we are addressing the opioid crisis in the state.” said Erin Dickinson of Crueger Dickinson LLC, lead counsel along with partner Charles Crueger in the lawsuit filed today. “We will continue to fight to hold the defendants responsible for the devastating effects their actions have produced across the state and throughout the nation.”

“Franklin County has concluded that drug companies and distributors must be held accountable for their roles in causing the worst drug crisis our country has seen,” said Simmons Hanly Conroy Shareholder Paul J. Hanly, Jr., lead co-counsel for the county in this case.  “This lawsuit represents the county’s continued leadership in combating this crisis. Together, with county leaders, we will seek justice for the residents of Franklin County.”

According to the complaint, between 2014 and 2016, Indiana coroners and medical examiners reported 1,693 drug-related overdose deaths. Between 2013 and 2015 in Franklin County, the rate of hospital emergency department visits for non-fatal opioid overdoes increased from 21.8 per 100,000 population to 30.6 per 100,000 population, mirroring national statistics. Out of 86 Indiana counties, Franklin County ranks tenth on the list of deaths from opioid drug poisoning between 2011 and 2015, with 8 overdoses per 100,000 population. Franklin County’s statistics demonstrate the rising toll the national opioid epidemic is taking. Franklin County families and communities have faced heartbreaking tragedies that cannot be adequately conveyed by statistics.

Apart from the toll on human life, the crisis has financially strained the services the county provides 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. The defendants’ conduct caused the county 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 payors 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 coordinated, sophisticated and highly-deceptive promotion and marketing campaign – including unbranded messaging to evade extensive regulatory framework governing branded communications. These communications, which began in the late 1990s, became more aggressive around 2006 and continue today.

Further, the lawsuit alleges that drug distributors have both the obligation and the tools to track suspiciously large surges in prescription opioid demand, including at the level of individual pharmacies or clinics. The lawsuit alleges, however, that the defendants have failed to use these tools to warn public officials about suspicious orders, which they are legally required to do, or to reasonably exercise controls over the obvious oversupply of opioid pills.

The Franklin County lawsuit follows similar, ongoing actions filed by Crueger Dickinson and Simmons Hanly Conroy on behalf of counties across the country. In addition to Indiana, Simmons represents more than 200 counties and municipalities in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Iowa, Illinois, Georgia, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. In January 2018, Hanly was appointed co-lead counsel of the Multidistrict Opioid Litigation, to oversee all federal litigation brought against pharmaceutical companies and physicians involved in the marketing of prescription opioids. Those cases are being heard in federal court in Ohio. Additionally, Dickinson was named to the Plaintiffs’ Executive Committee, a committee of 16 attorneys who will play a major role in the leadership and management of all of the federal cases in the United States.