Philadelphia Sues Opioid Drug Makers For Allegedly Spreading ‘Human Tragedy’ In Pursuit Of Profits

Steve Birr | Vice Reporter

Officials in Philadelphia are joining a large body of U.S. states and cities suing major pharmaceutical manufacturers for allegedly igniting the national opioid epidemic.

Mayor Jim Kenney announced the lawsuit Wednesday, accusing a number of drug makers including Teva Pharmaceuticals, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Endo Pharmaceuticals, and Purdue Pharma, of knowingly downplaying the addiction risks of their painkillers in order to boost sales and maximize profits. The city estimates roughly one third of Philadelphia residents have been prescribed an opioid in the past year, reports NBC 10.

The city seeks to force drug makers to immediately cease the “deceptive marketing practices” that lead to this kinda of mass overprescribing of the population. It also wants pharmaceutical companies on the hook for the local health costs of the crisis and to fund addiction treatment programs in the community.

“The epidemic currently plaguing the city has exacted a grim toll on Philadelphia residents and their families,” Kenney said Wednesday, according to NBC 10. “And the cause can be directly linked to methods used by manufacturers to market and sell their products to doctors and the public. Those tactics have to end.”

Fatal drug overdoses are estimated to have topped 1,200 last year, a significant increase over the previous year, giving Philadelphia the highest rate of opioid deaths of any U.S. city, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The opioid crisis is the largest public health crisis this city has seen in a century, and it has been fueled by drug companies,” Dr. Thomas Farley, the Philadelphia health commissioner, said Wednesday, according to NBC 10. “It’s well past time for those companies to stop pushing these drugs and start helping us cope with the human tragedy they have caused.”

Philadelphia’s lawsuit is one of several filed against opioid manufacturers this year. Officials from localities in New York and Wisconsin formally sued drug makers during the first week of January.

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.

Nationally, drug overdoses are now the leading cause of accidental death for Americans under age 50, killing 63,600 people in 2016. The increase is driven primarily by opioids, which claimed 42,249 lives last year, a 28 percent increase over the roughly 33,000 lives lost to opioids in 2015, according to data released Dec. 21 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Opioid overdose made up a staggering 66 percent of all drug overdose deaths in 2016, surpassing the annual number of lives lost to breast cancer.

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