Purdue, Teva, Cephalon, Johnson & Johnson, Jansesen named in multi-million lawsuit to hold companies responsible for epidemic of fatal overdoses
(L-R) Ms. Ann Marie Perrotto (mother of a 22 year old who died from an Opioid overdose, Mayor Bill de Blasio, First Lady Charlene McCray, Reverend Ray Rivera, Councilman Mark Levine, and Councilwoman Vanessa Gibson.
Mayor Bill de Blasio and First Lady Chirlane McCray announced a the City had filed a lawsuit today in New York State Supreme Court to hold manufacturers and distributors of prescription opioids to account for their part in the City’s ongoing deadly opioid epidemic. The lawsuit aims to recover half a billion dollars in current and future costs the City will incur to combat this epidemic. In 2016, more than 1,000 people in New York City died in a drug overdose which involved an opioid, the highest year on record. More New Yorkers died from opioid overdoses last year than from car accidents and homicides combined.
“More New Yorkers have died from opioid overdoses than car crashes and homicides combined in recent years. Big Pharma helped to fuel this epidemic by deceptively peddling these dangerous drugs and hooking millions of Americans in exchange for profit,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “It’s time for hold the companies accountable for what they’ve done to our City, and help save more lives.”
“Today, New York City demands transparency and accountability from the nation’s largest opioid manufacturers and distributors who have profited from people’s pain,” said First Lady Chirlane McCray, who leads the City’s mental health and substance misuse efforts. “The greedy and reckless behavior of these companies has fueled a drug epidemic that is tearing apart families and damaging our communities. I am proud of our City’s resiliency and the tremendous courage of those New Yorkers who have saved lives and offered support. It is with this kind of compassion that we will help more people understand the disease of addiction and get more people on the path to recovery.”
Above - Ms. Ann Marie Perrotto tells of how after a car accident at age 19 her son became addicted to Opioid drugs, only to die at age 22.
Below - (L-R) Staten Island District Attorney Michael E. McMahon, NYC Corporation Counsel Zachary W. Carter, Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Dr. Herminia Palacio, Ms. Perrotto, and Mayor de Blasio.
The City joins hundreds of municipalities across New York State and the nation as it seeks to hold opioid manufacturers and distributors accountable for their illegal actions. The suit charges that manufacturers’ misrepresentations of the safety and efficacy of long-term opioid use and distributors’ oversupply of opioids that enable diversion to the illegal market continue to fuel the crisis and significantly contributed to creating and maintaining a public nuisance in the City.
The lawsuit alleges that the opioid crisis caused by manufacturers’ deceptive marketing, and distributors’ flooding of prescription painkillers into New York City has placed a substantial burden on the City through increased substance use treatment services, ambulatory services, emergency department services, inpatient hospital services, medical examiner costs, criminal justice costs, and law enforcement costs. Furthermore, manufacturers sought to create a false perception that using opioids to treat chronic pain was safe for most patients and that the drugs’ benefits outweighed the risks. This was perpetrated through a coordinated, sophisticated and highly deceptive promotion and marketing campaign – including unbranded messaging to evade extensive regulatory framework governing branded communications. These communications, which began in the late 1990s, became more aggressive around 2006 and continue today.
Distributor defendants, who have both the obligation and the tools to track suspiciously large surges in opioid demand, including at the level of individual pharmacies or clinics, 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.
Manufacturer named in the suit are Purdue Pharma L.P.; Purdue Pharma, Inc.; The Purdue Frederick Company, Inc.; Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc.; Cephalon, Inc.; Johnson& Johnson; Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; OrthoMcNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; Janssen Pharmaceutica, Inc. n/k/a Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; Endo Health Solutions Inc.; Endo Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; Allergan PLC f/k/a Actavis PLC; Actavis, Inc. f/k/a Watson Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; Watson Laboratories, Inc.; Actavis Pharma, Inc. f/k/a Watson Pharma, Inc. The distributors are McKesson Corporation; Cardinal Health, Inc.; and AmerisourceBergen Corporation.
“The opioid epidemic has been exacerbated by the irresponsible actions of drug companies - and they need to be held responsible for their actions,” said Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Dr. Herminia Palacio. “This deadly crisis has touched the lives of thousands of New Yorkers and their families, which is why we launched HealingNYC - a comprehensive plan to prevent overdoses and save lives. We have much more work to do - but NYC has continued to take this challenge head-on by distributing thousands of naloxone kits throughout the five boroughs, increasing access to medication-assisted treatment, and running media campaigns to give New Yorkers the information and tools they need to get better. This litigation is another tool to address the opioid epidemic in New York City.”
“Defendant manufacturers for decades engaged in an aggressive and highly deceptive marketing campaign to minimize the risk of addiction and convince doctors, patients and consumers that opioids were safe and effective for the long-term treatment of chronic, non-cancer pain, even though they knew no evidence existed to support that claim. Manufacturers’ campaign to expand the market for opioids and reap blockbuster profits triggered widespread opioid over-use, misuse, addiction and a devastating public health crisis across the nation and in the City. Defendant distributors also contributed to the crisis by shirking their legal obligation to track, control and report suspiciously large opioid pill orders and thereby flooding the City with these highly addictive narcotics. Our suit seeks hundreds of millions of dollars the City has spent and will be required to spend to deal with the public nuisance created by the drug companies. Together with cities and counties across the country, we will work to hold the drug companies responsible for their actions,” said City Corporation Counsel Zachary W. Carter.
“Sharp increases in opioid painkiller prescribing unnecessarily exposed New Yorkers to this risky medication and facilitated today’s opioid crisis,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “Manufacturers and distributors need to be held accountable for their role in the opioid overdose epidemic. Today’s announcement complements HealingNYC, the City’s comprehensive approach to prevent overdoses, save lives and connect people to care. We will continue to educate health professionals about judicious prescribing practices, raise awareness that effective treatment for opioid addiction is available and remind New Yorkers that carrying naloxone can save a life.”
The opioid crisis has had serious impacts on New York City. The number of drug overdose deaths has increased within the City in each of the last six years. Rates of drug overdose deaths in New York City more than doubled between 2010 and 2016, increasing from 8.2 per 100,000 residents in 2010 to 19.9 per 100,000 residents in 2016. DOHMH reports that while drug overdose deaths impact every neighborhood and demographic in New York City, residents of impoverished neighborhoods are the hardest hit. Roughly 2.7 million opioid prescriptions were filled within New York City each year between 2014 and 2016.
Under HealingNYC, a $38 million initiative to address the opioid epidemic announced by Mayor Bill de Blasio and First Lady Chirlane McCray last March, the Health Department has already distributed over 60,000 naloxone kits to opioid overdose prevention programs; expanded access to medications for addiction treatment; launched Relay, a new peer-based program in hospital emergency departments for people who experienced an overdose; trained more than 630 clinicians to prescribe buprenorphine; offered 1:1 education on judicious opioid prescribing to 1,000 doctors; and significantly increased community outreach and public education efforts.
“The reckless decision to push highly addictive prescription pills on an unsuspecting public undoubtedly led to the heroin and fentanyl epidemic that is currently devastating Staten Island, the city, and the entire country. Given the lives, hours, and resources that have been put into this fight, it is long overdue that we hold the manufacturers and distributors accountable for the people and families that have been destroyed by opioids,” said District Attorney Michael E. McMahon. “Many of the earliest victims of this drug epidemic fell prey to the misleading and deceptive marketing behind these pills and the unchecked supply that flooded our communities for years. Tragically, nothing can be done to bring back the loved ones we have already lost, but the actions being taken by the Mayor and First Lady will only strengthen our fight against drug abuse across the city.”