New York City Joins the Fight against Manufacturers of Prescription Opioid Painkillers

New York City, 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 New York City against pharmaceutical companies and distributers of prescription opioids over their role in the City’s ongoing opioid epidemic. In 2016, more than 1,000 people in New York City died in a drug overdose which involved an opioid. The city 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 opioid epidemic currently plaguing the City has taken a huge toll on New York City residents and their families,” said Simmons Hanly Conroy Shareholder Paul Hanly, Jr., lead counsel for the city in this case. “Opioid addiction has caused incredible damage and loss for families across the City and city leaders have been stretched thin trying to address this devastating crisis. Together, with city officials, we will seek justice for the residents of New York City.”

The lawsuit alleges that the opioid crisis caused by manufacturers’ aggressive and fraudulent marketing of, and distributors’ flooding of prescription painkillers into New York City has placed a substantial burden on the City through increased substance use treatment services, ambulatory services, emergency department services, inpatient hospital services, medical examiner costs, criminal justice costs, and law enforcement costs.  Furthermore, manufacturers sought to create a false perception that using opioids to treat chronic pain was safe for most patients and that the drugs’ benefits outweighed the risks. This was 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.

The lawsuit also alleges distributor defendants, who have both the obligation and the tools to track suspiciously large surges in opioid demand, including at the level of individual pharmacies or clinics, 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 manufacturer 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.; OrthoMcNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; Janssen Pharmaceutica, Inc. n/k/a Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; Endo Health Solutions Inc.; Endo Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; Allergan PLC f/k/a Actavis PLC; Actavis, Inc. f/k/a Watson Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; Watson Laboratories, Inc.; Actavis Pharma, Inc. f/k/a Watson Pharma, Inc. The distributor defendants are McKesson Corporation; Cardinal Health, Inc.; and AmerisourceBergen Corporation.

The opioid crisis has had serious impacts on New York City. The number of drug overdose deaths has increased within the City in each of the last six years. Rates of drug overdose deaths in New York City more than doubled between 2010 and 2016, increasing from 8.2 per 100,000 residents in 2010 to 19.9 per 100,000 residents in 2016. DOHMH reports that while drug overdose deaths impact every neighborhood and demographic in New York City, residents of impoverished neighborhoods are the hardest hit. Roughly 2.7 million opioid prescriptions were filled within New York City each year between 2014 and 2016.

In addition to New York City, Simmons has filed similar lawsuits in New York State on behalf of Broome, Dutchess, Erie, Greene, Orange, Oswego, Schenectady, Seneca, Suffolk, Sullivan and St. Lawrence counties. 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.

Hanly was appointed in July 2017 as co-lead counsel overseeing the consolidated New York State opioid litigation.  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. Simmons has filed similar litigation on behalf more than 130 counties and municipalities in Connecticut, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin.