Lawsuits Pile Up Against Opioid Makers For Allegedly Deceiving The Public

Steve Birr | Vice Reporter

Lawsuits are mounting against the largest drug makers in the country for their alleged complicity in sparking the opioid crisis through public deception.

Officials in Suffolk County, N.Y., are joining a group of municipalities across the state in a number of lawsuits against major pharmaceutical companies and their subsidiaries for misrepresenting the safety profile of opioid painkillers and minimizing the risk of addiction. One of the lawsuits goes as far as accusing Purdue Pharma, the makers of OxyContin, of allowing large quantities of their pills to flow into the black market, reports The Long Island Advance.

The law firm Simmons Hanly Conroy LLC is spearheading the cases in New York, as well as two lawsuits in California, two in West Virginia, one in Chicago and one from the city of Everett in Washington state.

“The big one is Purdue Pharma,” Rob Calarco, a Suffolk County legislator, told The Long Island Advance. “You often hear about gateway drugs that lead to addiction, but now it’s not from the path of gateway drugs, but from a doctor’s prescription. And this is the crux of the case; we’ve named four different doctors as well as the pharmaceutical companies.”

Mayor Ray Stephanson of Everett, Wash., is suing Purdue Pharma for gross negligence, claiming the company turned a blind eye to suspicious activities that funneled pills into the streets of Everett, where opioid abuse is now rampant. Stephanson said “Purdue’s drive for profit” directly fueled opioid addictions in the community and the rising rate of heroin abuse.

Representatives for Purdue Pharma said the lawsuit is a misrepresentation of what sparked the opioid crisis in Everett and “look forward to presenting the facts in court.”

After a number of lawsuits Purdue Pharma reformulated the drug OxyContin in 2010 to reduce the possibility for abuse. In the absence of abusable Oxycontin, former users turned to heroin in large numbers to attain the same high. Researchers from RAND Corp. and the Wharton School concluded abuse-deterrent OxyContin is directly responsible for roughly “80% of the three-fold increase in heroin mortality since 2010.”

The reformulation succeeded in its intended purpose of reducing overall abuse of OxyContin, but it came with disastrous unintended consequences. There are 3.1 more heroin deaths per 100,000 people for every percentage decrease in OxyContin abuse.

Simmons Hanly Conroy LLC already has a history of successful litigation against pharmaceutical companies. The firm won $75 million for 5,000 individuals who sued Purdue Pharma after getting addicted to OxyContin through legal prescriptions from their doctors.

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