Pharmaceutical Companies, Distributors To Be Sued By Indianapolis For Fueling Opioid Epidemic
Mayor Joe Hogsett announced at a press conference last Thursday that the city of Indianapolis is set to take legal action against the pharmaceutical companies who make and distribute opioids for an unspecified amount of damages. On board is Cohen & Malad LLP, a law firm that intends to file a lawsuit in the upcoming weeks.
According to the law firm, the defendants are likely to include the usual suspects – in other words, pharmaceutical companies that have already been sued by various states, cities, and communities such as AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, Endo Health, McKesson, Purdue Pharma, and Teva Pharmaceutical.
The law firm will retain one-third of any settlement, and the city won’t pay hourly or incur any costs upfront.
The pending lawsuit contends that the pharmaceutical companies intentionally undersold and misled the public about the addictive nature of their opioids, and did not monitor the excessive numbers of prescriptions inundating Marion County.
In the press conference, Hogsett said that the opioid manufacturers and distributors “contributing to this crisis” were seeking “profits over people” and “have failed in their duty to be responsible gatekeepers of highly addictive and potentially lethal drugs.”
Moreover, he stated that corporate executives were collecting profits, and yet ignoring their responsibility as the source of “highly addictive and potentially lethal drugs.”
“Opioids are killing Americans. Opioids are killing Hoosiers. Opioids are killing our neighbors here through the city of Indianapolis.”
Hogsett noted that in many cases, the victims were seeking pain relief after medical procedures, as promised by pharmaceutical companies. But instead, they were “administered addiction.”
“The companies contributing to this crisis have failed in their duty to be responsible gatekeepers of highly addictive and potentially lethal drugs.”
He said the lawsuit is one part of the city’s strategy to fight opioid addiction include arrest alternatives, addiction referral services, and on-site treatment facilities.
He also said that the city of Indianapolis had been forced to find new methods of fighting the epidemic, including the founding of Mobile Crisis Assistance Teams.
These teams, which are staffed with one police officer, one paramedic, and one clinician, are responding to calls on the east side. Their objective is to help people battling addiction instead of throwing them in jail.
But even as city law enforcement and officials search for progress in such new programs, Hogsett stated that it was not enough, and that law enforcement, paramedics, and health care providers need more help and resources in their fight against the epidemic:
“We have fought back as best we can, only to find this epidemic untenable.”
As noted above, more than two dozen states, counties, and cities, including Ohio, Mississippi, and Seattle, Washington have sued several of these companies. Several Tennessee counties filed a suit in June against Purdue Pharma, Endo Health, and Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals, and Louisville, KY, also filed a suit against the three distributors in August.
All in all, more than 75 lawsuits of this nature have been filed against opioid makers and distributors. Meanwhile, attorneys general in 40 states have requested information from these companies about their practices, as well.
The following companies issued statements to the IndyStar regarding the lawsuit:
“We are deeply troubled by the opioid crisis, and we are dedicated to being part of the solution. We vigorously deny these allegations and look forward to the opportunity to present our defense.”
“At Endo, our top priorities include patient safety and ensuring that patients with chronic pain have access to safe and effective therapeutic options. We share in the FDA’s goal of appropriately supporting the needs of patients with chronic pain while preventing misuse and diversion of opioid products.”
“Teva is committed to the appropriate use of opioid medicines, and we recognize the critical public health issues impacting communities across the U.S. as a result of illegal drug use as well as the misuse and abuse of opioids that are available legally by prescription.
Teva offers extensive resources for prescribers, patients, and pharmacists regarding the responsible pain management and prevention of prescription drug abuse.”
About The Epidemic
According to a news release citing research from the University of Indiana, opioid addiction killed 345 Marion County residents in 2016, which was four times the number of deaths related to traffic accidents.
Last year, Indianapolis emergency medical personnel administered more than 1,800 does of naloxone, the overdose-reversal drugs, to save the lives of people who were overdosing.
Recent estimates from the CDC predict more than 64,000 drug overdose deaths in 2016, up from 52,400 in 2015. Most of these fatalities were related to prescription painkillers such as oxycodone, or illegal drugs such as heroin and street fentanyl.
The CDC states that 4 in 5 new heroin users report first becoming addicted to prescription opioids before initiating illegal drug use. Also, an estimated more than two million Americans are currently addicted to prescription painkillers, and hundreds of thousands more are addicted to heroin or other synthetic opioids.
~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology