Monroe County Joins the Fight against Manufacturers of Prescription Opioid Painkillers

Monroe County, NY  – 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 Monroe County, New York, against pharmaceutical companies and physicians 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 County seeks relief in the complaint that includes compensatory and punitive damages for the millions of dollars it spends each year to combat the public nuisance created by the drug companies’ deceptive marketing campaign that misrepresents the safety and efficacy of long-term opioid use.

The defendants in the lawsuit are: Purdue Pharma L.P.; Purdue Pharma, Inc.; The Purdue Frederick Company, 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.; Insys Therapeutics, Inc.; Dr. Russell Portenoy; Dr. Perry Fine; Dr. Scott Fishman; and Dr. Lynn Webster.

Today’s filing follows similar action taken by Simmons on behalf of 11 other counties in New York. The lawsuits, which were filed in each county’s State Supreme Court, have been consolidated in Suffolk County Supreme Court and are being heard by State Supreme Court Justice Jerry Garguilo.

“By filing this lawsuit, Monroe County seeks to hold the defendants accountable for their role in the opioid epidemic that has infiltrated their community,” said Simmons Hanly Conroy Shareholder Paul J. Hanly, Jr., lead counsel for the County in this case.  “Opioid addiction has caused incredible damage for families across Monroe County. Together, with County leaders, we will seek justice for the residents of Monroe County.”

“The opioid epidemic has taken a heartbreaking human toll in every corner of our community and has placed a significant financial burden on local taxpayers,” said Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo. “Monroe County today officially filed our lawsuit against the makers and marketers of opioids who fanned the flames of addiction across our nation. We intend to hold these companies accountable for their actions in order to recoup costs for taxpayers and reinvest in increased prevention, treatment, and enforcement moving forward.”

According to the complaint, between 2003 and 2014, at least 417 residents of Monroe County suffered from opioid-related overdose fatalities. In Monroe County in 2014, there were 1,513 opioid-related emergency department admissions, a 90.1% increase since 2010, and 1,804 inpatient hospital admissions for the same reason.  Furthermore, there were 2,379 Monroe County residents admitted to chemical dependence treatment programs in 2016. The use of naloxone, a medication used to block the effect of opioids, especially in overdose, in Monroe County jumped from 537 incidents to 692 incidents between 2015 to 2016.

Apart from the toll on human life, the crisis has had a significant financial impact on the County. Human services, social services, court services, law enforcement services, the Office of the Medical Examiner, and health services, including hospital, emergency and ambulatory services, have all been impacted by the crisis. For example, as a direct and foreseeable consequence of the defendants’ egregious conduct, the County has paid, and continues to pay, increased 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 County to incur substantial economic, administrative and social costs relating to opioid addiction and abuse, including criminal justice costs, victimization 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 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 complaint details 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.

The Monroe County lawsuit follows similar, ongoing action in New York filed by Simmons Hanly Conroy on behalf of counties across the State. In addition to Monroe County, Simmons has also filed similar lawsuits in Broome, Dutchess, Erie, Greene, Orange, Oswego, Schenectady, Seneca, Suffolk, Sullivan and St. Lawrence counties.