New Mexico recently filed a lawsuit alleging major opioid manufacturers, including Purdue Pharma, Johnson & Johnson and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, among others, claiming they are responsible for the state’s opioid epidemic, specifically in its smaller rural areas. The lawsuit was filed in the First Judicial District Court for Santa Fe County, and claims that the companies downplayed the highly addictive nature of the pain killers to physicians prescribing them to their patients. The lawsuit alleges further that wholesale distributors violated their duties to patients by selling large quantities of opioids not used to treat physicians’ diagnoses.
New Mexico’s Attorney General Hector Balderas outlined the nature of the claim, stating, “The manufacturing companies pushed highly addictive, dangerous opioids, falsely representing to doctors that patients would only rarely succumb to drug addiction, while the distributors breached their legal duties to monitor, detect, investigate, refuse and report suspicious orders of prescription opioids.”
First Judicial District Attorney Marco Serna added, “As the District Attorney of communities with some of the highest opioid and heroin abuse rates in the country, I see the daily effects of this crisis in our own backyards. Attorney General Balderas’ efforts to combat this problem are part of a crucial statewide solution, and are the only way rural communities will be protected from this epidemic. I helped Attorney General Balderas launch Project OPEN earlier this year and I will continue to partner with his office to combat this crisis as one jurisdiction cannot do it alone.”
As Serna mentioned, New Mexico’s filing acts as an attempt to battle the ongoing opioid crisis through Project OPEN (Opioid Prevention & Education Network) and discusses the relationship between prescription opioid and heroin addiction. “The CDC has identified addiction to prescription pain medication as the strongest risk factor for heroin addiction. People who are addicted to prescription opioid painkillers are forty times more likely to be addicted to heroin,” according to the complaint, meaning physicians issuing opioid painkillers are helping to fuel the street drug epidemic.
“New Mexico continues to endure the most catastrophic effects of the opioid crisis, all while major out of state corporations make billions in profits at the expense of our families and communities,” Balderas said. “This lawsuit is part of my office’s multi-pronged effort, Project OPEN, to combat the opioid crisis in New Mexico by holding drug manufacturers and distributors accountable, securing treatment resources, and increasing funding for law enforcement.”
Las Cruces Mayor Ken Miyagishima supports Balderas’ efforts, stating, “The opioid crisis is spreading across New Mexico at an alarming rate and in Las Cruces we are working to get ahead of the epidemic by focusing on prevention and treatment. That is why I am proud to partner with Attorney General Balderas to host the next Project OPEN training in Las Cruces.” Third Judicial District Attorney Mark D’Antonio echoed Miyagishima’s sentiments, “The Doña Ana County District Attorney’s Office supports Attorney General Balderas’ lawsuit and leadership on this important issue, and I look forward to hosting the next Project OPEN with the Attorney General in Las Cruces. We must attack the opioid crisis that is ravaging our families and straining our law enforcement resources in Doña Ana County and across New Mexico.”
New Mexico is the eighth state to file a lawsuit against major pharmaceutical manufacturers.