New York City launches $500 million lawsuit against big pharma over opioid crisis

pharmafile | January 24, 2018 | News story | Research and Development, Sales and Marketing New York City, opioid crisis, opioids, pharma 

The administration of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has announced its intention to bring legal action against the painkiller industry responsible for the ongoing opioid crisis in the US.

To this end, the city has filed a lawsuit with the state Supreme Court demanding over $500 million from a range of names in big pharma, including Teva, Johnson & Johnson, Janssen, Allergan, Purdue Pharma, Endo Health Solutions, and a number of subsidiaries and affiliates, as well as distributors of the drugs McKesson, Cardinal Health and Amerisource Bergen.

“It’s time for big pharma to pay for what they have done. It’s time for them to be held accountable,” said de Blasio. “To deal with the lifetime needs of those who have been addicted, the cost is staggering. So it’s time for these pharmaceutical companies to forfeit some of their ill-gotten gains.

“This city alone is spending over a half-a-billion [dollars] a year to address the opioid epidemic—half-a-billion,” the mayor added. The sum demanded in the lawsuit is said to cover the city’s current and future costs as a result of opioid abuse.

Just two weeks prior, the de Blasio administration announced that it would also be taking legal action against five fossil fuel firms for their role in global warming, and the elevated sea levels which will one day affect the city. The suit is just one of hundreds that US states, cities and counties have brought against big pharma over the opioid crisis.

City Corporation Counsel Zachary Carter argued that manufacturers and distributors of opioid products actively encouraged patients to use them for chronic pain, contravening the FDA’s approval of such drugs only for limited purposes: “Through deceptive marketing practices, they attempted to persuade both doctors and the general patient community that risk could be managed.”

However, those companies accused have of course denied wrongdoing. Purdue Pharma responded by saying: “We vigorously deny these allegations and look forward to the opportunity to present our defence […] Although our products account for approximately 2% of the total opioid prescriptions, as a company, we’ve distributed the CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain, developed three of the first four FDA-approved opioid medications with abuse-deterrent properties and partner with law enforcement to ensure access to naloxone.”

Purdue has been on the receiving end of legal action before regarding its opioid products, pleading guilty in 2007 to federal charges that it had falsely advertised OxyContin, paying out $635 million.

Matt Fellows

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