Communities Rally To Sue Big Pharma For Igniting Addiction Epidemic

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter
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Dozens of communities are banding together to sue some of America’s largest drug makers for their role in spreading addiction in Connecticut.

The mayor of Waterbury held a press conference Thursday announcing the lawsuit and said he expects another 15 to 20 towns to join the effort over the coming weeks. A number of mayors in neighboring cities have since publicly thrown their support behind the lawsuit, while decrying the damage done in the state by drug makers who they allege knowingly pushed false information about the effects of their drugs, reports CT News Junkie.

Health care costs continue to rise for localities throughout the state. Opioid prescriptions cost the city of Waterbury $1.4 million last year. The city of Milford, which joined the lawsuit, spent 20 percent of their annual budget on health care last year, totaling $40 million.

“We know it goes beyond just the medical costs,” Milford Mayor Benjamin Blake said, according to CT News Junkie. “Not only the cost from a financial standpoint but, even more so, the human toll that this epidemic extracts.”

A report from the state Office of the Chief Medical Examiner says opioid deaths are on pace to rise again in 2017 and are estimated to claim 1,000 lives by the end of the year.

The lawsuit targets Purdue Pharma, Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Johnson & Johnson and Endo Health Solutions, along with a number of subsidiaries. They allege that pharmaceutical companies knowingly marketed false information on their drugs, leading unsuspecting users down the hole of addiction.

“While we vigorously deny the allegations, we share local officials’ concerns about the opioid crisis and we are committed to working collaboratively to find solutions,” a representative for Purdue Pharma said in a statement to the Hartford Courant.

The legal action so far includes Bristol, Bridgeport, New Milford, Naugatuck, Oxford, Wolcott and Roxbury.

Lawsuits are mounting against the largest drug makers in the country for their alleged complicity in sparking the opioid crisis through dishonest advertising. The law firm Simmons Hanly Conroy LLC is spearheading cases in New York, as well as two lawsuits in California, two in West Virginia, one in Chicago and one in Washington state.

An Illinois county hit hard by the opioid crisis launched a lawsuit against the pharmaceutical industry July 1. This is the second lawsuit leveled against major drug makers by officials in Illinois, adding to more than 25 civil cases that have already been filed this year against the top pharmaceutical companies and their distributors.

Brendan Kelly, the state attorney for St. Clair County, Ill., filed a 159-page lawsuit April 20 against Purdue Pharma and Abbott Laboratories, also accusing the company of consumer fraud and profiting off deception.

The National Center for Health Statistics, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, released the first preliminary federal report, giving an accounting of drug overdose deaths in 2016. The CDC estimates that drug deaths rose by more than 22 percent in 2016, killing 64,070 Americans. Opioid deaths rose from 33,000 in 2015 to nearly 50,000 in 2016, driven primarily by fentanyl, a painkiller roughly 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine.

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