Simmons Hanly Conroy, one of the nation’s largest law firms focused on consumer protection and mass tort actions, has filed four separate lawsuits in the past week on behalf of New York’s Seneca, Sullivan, Dutchess and Schenectady counties against pharmaceutical companies and physicians over aggressive and fraudulent marketing of prescription opium-like painkillers (opioids). The lawsuits allege this marketing has led to a drug epidemic in the counties. With these four recent lawsuits, the total number of New York counties the firm represents is now eight. More lawsuits representing more counties are expected to follow.

The drug companies and other defendants in these cases are directly responsible for the manufacture, promotion and marketing of opioids that has omitted critical, long-accepted information about the drugs’ addictive qualities and other risks associated with their prolonged use,” Paul Hanly Jr., a shareholder at the firm and lead attorney on the lawsuits, said in an article published by New York City Biz List.

Simmons Hanly Conroy first filed a lawsuit in August against pharmaceutical companies, including Purdue Pharma and Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, on behalf of Suffolk County, New York. Besides the three suits filed last week and this one in August, the firm also represents Broome, Erie, and Orange counties. Attorneys are in conversations with ten more upstate New York counties about filing a possible lawsuit against pharmaceutical companies, such as Johnson and Johnson and Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc, and physicians.

“By the end of the year, I expect to have commenced cases for close to 30 of the state’s 62 counties,” said Hanly Jr in an article published by Crain’s New York Business.

Opioids are commonly known by their brand names, including OxyContin and Percocet. They are considered an appropriate treatment for certain types of short-term pain and for palliative end-of-life care. Substantial evidence exists that opioid drugs are ineffective to treat chronic pain and actually worsen patients’ health. In addition, opioids are derived from or possess properties similar to opium and heroin and are highly addictive and dangerous. This is why the U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulates them as controlled substances.

The lawsuits allege 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.

The lawsuits for the counties also point to criminal activity, including murder and drug-trafficking offenses. The counties have already incurred great costs and will continue to incur them because of residents’ opioid addiction and abuse. These costs include covering health care, criminal justice and victimization, social aspects and lost productivity.

Read more about the lawsuits filed by the firm on behalf of Seneca and Sullivan, Dutchess and Schenectady counties.

Following the announcements this week and last, the suits have made headlines nationwide. A list of articles is below.

Three more N.Y. counties file lawsuit against opioid makers, Politico (Paywall)

Three New York counties join wave of opioid lawsuits, Reuters.com

Opioids: Dutchess suit seeks accountability from pharma companies, Poughkeepsie Journal

Meet the Manhattan attorney leading local governments’ lawsuits against Big Pharma, Crain’s New York Business

Simmons Hanly Conroy files lawsuits for New York’s Dutchess, Seneca and Sullivan counties against drug companies over opioid epidemic and addiction, Riverbender.com

Simmons Hanly Conroy Files Lawsuits for New York’s Dutchess, Seneca and Sullivan Counties, New York City Biz List

Opioid Epidemic: Dutchess County Sues Pharmaceutical Firms, Physicians, Patch.com

Dutchess Suing 11 Drug Companies Over Opioid Crisis, Southwest Dutchess

Dutchess County Sues Drug Companies For Opioid Addiction, Hudson Valley Post

Doctor’s Defense for Overprescribing Drugs: Blame Big Pharma, New York Law Journal

Sullivan County files suit against opioid drug manufacturers, Times Herald Record

Dutchess joins multi-county legal fight against drug companies over opioid abuse, The Daily Freeman

Dutchess County joins lawsuit against opioid manufacturers, Mid-Hudson News.com