Stratford Sues Drug Manufacturers And Distributors Over Opioid Epidemic

Law firms Simmons Hanly Conroy and Drubner Hartley & Hellman Sue on Behalf of Stratford, Seeking Damages for Fraudulent Marketing of Prescription Painkillers

STRATFORD, CT  – Simmons Hanly Conroy, one of the nation’s largest law firms focused on consumer protection and mass tort actions, filed a lawsuit yesterday on behalf of the Town of Stratford, Connecticut, against pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors over the aggressive and fraudulent marketing of prescription opioid painkillers that has led to a drug epidemic in the Town and throughout the nation.

In the complaint, the town seeks relief, including compensatory and punitive damages, for the substantial resources 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.  Waterbury-based law firm Drubner Hartley & Hellman is co-counsel to Simmons Hanly Conroy in the lawsuit.

The defendants in the lawsuit are: Purdue Pharma L.P., d/b/a Purdue Pharma (Delaware) Limited Partnership; Purdue Pharma Inc.; The Purdue Frederick Company, Inc.; Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc.; Cephalon, Inc.; Johnson & Johnson; Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc. n/k/a Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; Janssen Pharmaceutica, Inc. n/k/a Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; Endo Health Solutions Inc.; Endo Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; Insys Therapeutics, Inc.; McKesson Corporation; Cardinal Health, Inc.; and AmerisourceBergen Drug Corporation.  The lawsuit was filed in State Superior Court in Hartford.

“Stratford is one of the many communities in Connecticut, and across the country, that has concluded the defendant drug manufacturers and distributors must be held responsible for not only their conspiratorial and fraudulent actions, but also for the injuries and costs that have resulted from the opioid epidemic,” said Simmons Hanly Conroy Shareholder Paul J. Hanly, lead counsel in the case.  “The defendants have made, sold and marketed opioids while omitting critical information that has long been known about the drugs’ addictive qualities and other risks associated with their prolonged use.”

“The opioid crisis has hit home in our community just as it has in other communities across the state, leaving a trail of destruction and incalculable loss,” said Stratford Mayor Laura Hoydick.  “The toll it has taken on families in our community demands that we take action as we seek solutions to this growing public health crisis.”

James Hartley, partner at Drubner Hartley & Hellman, added, “The defendants have profited significantly while simultaneously ignoring the devastating impact of opioids on our communities. Big Pharma has to be held accountable for its role in creating this epidemic and perpetuating its devastating effects.”

Stratford, with a population of approximately 52,000, provides healthcare for town employees and their dependents, as well as a wide range of protective and emergency services for its residents.  Apart from the toll on human life, the opioid crisis has financially strained these services. The rising number of people addicted to opioids has led to significantly increased health care costs as well as a dramatic increase in social repercussions, including drug abuse and diversion, as well as the commission of criminal acts to obtain opioids across the state and country.

As a result of the defendants’ conduct, increased misuse of opioids has led to a significant increase in the number of opioid-related emergency room visits, hospital stays and deaths statewide. Between 2012 and 2017, Connecticut went from being ranked 50th in drug overdoses to 12th nationwide.

The Connecticut Office of the Chief Medical Examiner reported that in 2017 alone, there were 1,038 accidental drug overdose deaths in the state, a majority of which were opioid-related.  This represents an increase of more than 290 percent over the number of drug overdoses that took place in Connecticut in 2012.  In Stratford, specifically, approximately 43 drug overdose deaths occurred between 2012 and 2017, a large-percentage of which were opioid-related.

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 promotional and marketing campaign. These communications, which began in the late 1990s, became more aggressive in the 2000’s 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.

Stratford is one of 10 Connecticut communities named as plaintiffs in today’s lawsuit.  The others are Berlin, Middlebury, Prospect, Seymour, Wolcott, Bethlehem, New Milford, Roxbury, and Coventry.  The Stratford lawsuit follows similar, ongoing actions filed by Drubner Hartley & Hellman and Simmons Hanly Conroy on behalf of 19 municipalities in Connecticut.

Simmons has filed similar actions across the country, representing more than 200 municipalities in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. In January 2018, Paul 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.