New Lawsuit Targeting Big Pharma Seeks To Recoup ‘Significant Economic Damages’ From Opioid Crisis

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter
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Two towns in New Jersey recently leveled lawsuits against the top opioid manufacturers in the country in an effort to recoup the “significant economic damages” caused by drug addiction.

The towns of Irvington and Ridgefield are targeting pharmaceutical companies and their distributors alleging they engaged in a fraudulent scheme to encourage the mass prescribing of opioid painkillers. The suits, filed in November, claim drug makers violated the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act and the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, reports New Jersey Law Journal.

It says the addiction epidemic, allegedly sparked by the actions of drug makers, created a public nuisance that drained the towns of financial resources. The defendants also claim drug companies lobbied Congress to pass a law that stripped the Drug Enforcement Administration of their power to interdict suspicious opioid shipments to fight illicit drug trafficking.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions ripped into the “dubious” law in remarks Nov. 29, telling Congress it is imperative the DEA have a “full toolbox” to deal with the opioid epidemic successfully. Sessions wants Congress to take action to undo the 2016 law.

The law hamstrung the DEA’s enforcement efforts, Sessions argues.

The irresponsible actions of drug companies caused “significant economic damages” to their communities, legal representatives for Irvington and Ridgefield say and hope to hold the pharmaceutical industry accountable. The lawsuits target a litany of companies, including Purdue Pharma, Teva Pharmaceuticals, Endo Pharmaceuticals and Insys Therapeutics.

Pharmaceutical companies have previously denied any claims of wrongdoing and say they are committed to working with the government to solve the opioid epidemic.

“We are deeply troubled by the opioid crisis and we are dedicated to being part of the solution,” a spokesman for Purdue Pharma previously told The Daily Caller News Foundation in response to a lawsuit filed by the attorney general of New Jersey. “We vigorously deny these allegations and look forward to the opportunity to present our defense.”

Lawsuits are mounting against the largest drug makers in the country for their alleged complicity in sparking the opioid crisis through dishonest advertising. There are currently more than 75 cities and states suing pharmaceutical companies over the destructive addiction crisis.

President Donald Trump declared the opioid epidemic a “public health emergency” Oct. 26, giving states hit hard by opioid addiction flexibility on how they direct federal resources to combat rising drug deaths.

The National Center for Health Statistics, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), released its first preliminary report in August, giving an accounting of drug overdose deaths in 2016. Drug deaths rose by more than 22 percent in 2016, with 64,070 Americans suffering a fatal overdose that year, the CDC estimates.

Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of accidental death for Americans under age 50.

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