Orange County, New York has filed a lawsuit against Purdue Pharma LP, Johnson & Johnson (JNJ, N) and other drug makers alleging they engaged in fraudulent marketing that played down the risks of prescription opioid painkillers leading the drug epidemic.
Orange County, New York has filed a lawsuit against Purdue Pharma LP, Johnson & Johnson (J&J) and other drug makers alleging they engaged in fraudulent marketing that played down the risks of prescription opioid painkillers leading the drug overdose epidemic. The lawsuit claims the producers misrepresented the dangers of long-term opioid use through deceptive marketing practices to doctors, pharmacists and patients. The lawsuit also names certain areas of Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd, Endo International Plc as well as four physicians specifically as defendants. It was announced on Monday, May 15th. Purdue said it shares officials’ concerns about the opioid crisis and is “committed to working collaboratively to find solutions.”
The misrepresentations the plaintiffs claim caused patients in Orange County to incur health care, criminal justice and other costs related to addiction and overdose. More specifically, the county recorded 943 opioid-related emergency department admissions in 2014 and 44 deaths from overdoses involving opioid pain relievers in 2015. Opioids, including prescription painkillers and heroin, took the lives of over 33,000 people in the United States in 2015, more than any year on record, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Orange County Executive Steven Neuhaus said in a statement the county has been working with nonprofit organizations and doctors to increase awareness to opioid-related problems. “At the same time, we want those responsible to compensate the taxpayers for the public funds the county has had to pay to address opioid addiction,” he said. Johnson & Johnson in a statement called the allegations “unfounded” and noted its drugs carry U.S. Food and Drug Administration-mandated warnings. J&J this month said New Jersey’s attorney general had issued a subpoena related to opioid marketing.
The case, filed in a New York state court on Thursday, is the latest lawsuit by local and state governments seeking to hold drug makers accountable for a national opioid overdose epidemic and the fourth since August filed in New York. The state of New York comptroller issued the following statement regarding heroin and opioid addiction and overdose just last year: “It seems that every community in New York State is experiencing the heartbreak of lives lost to prescription opioid abuse and heroin addiction. Drug abuse is not a new problem. But with both heroin and other opioids, developments in recent years are cause for special concern….Comparing the death rates in 2005 and 2014 for both substances, New York’s increased more than almost any other state for which such data were available….With regard to opioids, such factors may include obtaining overlapping prescriptions from multiple providers and pharmacies. Addiction to prescription opioids, cocaine, marijuana or alcohol increases the risk of heroin addiction…While drug abuse was once viewed as largely a matter for law enforcement, the increasing recognition that opioid abuse and heroin addiction should be regarded as public health and mental health challenges may help lead to more effective solutions.”
Drug manufacturers also face lawsuits by Santa Clara and Orange counties in California, the city of Chicago and Mississippi over their marketing practices. Hopefully, adding this lawsuit to the list will help to curtail the statewide, and nationwide, epidemic.