Macoupin County, IL – Simmons Hanly Conroy, one of the nation’s largest law firms focused on consumer protection and mass tort actions, today filed a lawsuit on behalf of Macoupin County, Illinois 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.; 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.; and Endo Pharmaceuticals, Inc. The drug distributors named in the lawsuit are McKesson Corporation, Cardinal Health, Inc., and AmerisourceBergen Drug Corporation. The American Academy of Pain Medicine, American Geriatric Society, and American Pain Society are also named in today’s lawsuit for working with the manufacturing defendants in promoting opioids to doctors and patients.
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 and distributors, who failed to maintain effective controls over the distribution of prescription opioids and who instead have actively sought to evade such controls.
“This lawsuit represents Macoupin County’s dedication to combatting 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. “County leaders have concluded that drug companies and distributors must be held accountable. We will work together to seek justice for the residents of Macoupin County.”
“There are Macoupin County residents who have fallen victim to opioid drug companies and distributors,” said State’s Attorney Jennifer Watson. “This lawsuit represents a strong voice that Macoupin County will not tolerate being victimized any further.”
According to the complaint, opioids contributed to nearly 1,200 overdose deaths in Illinois in 2016, according to data from the Illinois Department of Health. Illinois is one of 14 states that had an 8.3 percent increase in overdose deaths. The number of opioid deaths in Macoupin County from 2015 to 2016 nearly doubled in the small, rural population of about 50,000. The number jumped from six fatal drug overdoses in 2015 to 11 opioid overdose deaths in 2016. Of the 11 fatal opioid overdoses, 10 were from prescription opioids.
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 Macoupin County lawsuit follows similar, ongoing actions filed by Simmons Hanly Conroy on behalf of counties across the country. In addition to Illinois, Simmons has represented more than 200 municipalities in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Iowa, Indiana, 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.