Tuesday, October 23, 2018
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Mark Reiter, Lucas County Public Information Officer
Office: (419) 213-4590 Cell: (419) 787-4772
Lucas County Board of Commissioners files lawsuit in national prescription opiate litigation
Multidistrict Litigation also joined by the Mental Health and Recovery Services Board of Lucas County and Lucas County Children Services Board
TOLEDO, OH (Oct. 23, 2018) –The Lucas County Board of Commissioners today filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court, Northern District of Ohio, against defendant manufacturers and distributors of prescription opiates. The Board was joined by Lucas County Children Services Board and the Mental Health and Recovery Services Board of Lucas County as plaintiffs in the National Prescription Opiate Litigation multidistrict litigation, MDL 2804.
In the complaint, the Boards seek compensatory and punitive damages for the millions of dollars spent each year to combat the opioid epidemic.
“Lucas County has been devastated by the public health crisis caused by the opioid epidemic,” said Lucas County Commissioner Carol Contrada. “Today, as plaintiffs in this litigation, we are taking active steps to seek compensation reimbursement from defendant manufacturers and distributors of prescription opioids, enabling us to reinvest in the health, well-being, and safety of our community.”
Apart from the toll on human life, the crisis has financially strained the services the county provides to its residents and employees. Human services, social services, court services, law enforcement services, the office of the coroner/medical examiner, and health services, including hospital, emergency and ambulatory services, have all been severely impacted by the crisis. For example, the county has paid, and continues to pay, millions of dollars for health care costs stemming from prescription opioid dependency. These costs include unnecessary and excessive opioid prescriptions, substance abuse treatment services, ambulatory services, emergency department services, and inpatient hospital services, among others. The county also has incurred substantial economic, administrative, and social costs relating to opioid addiction and abuse, including criminal justice costs, victimization costs, child protective services costs, lost productivity costs, and education and prevention program costs, among others.
According to the complaint, for every week in 2016, an average of three Lucas County residents lost their lives to a drug overdose. The number of annual unintentional drug overdose deaths in Lucas County has skyrocketed since 2004, from 21 lives lost in 2004 to 191 lives lost in 2017. The total number of opioid-related deaths from 2004 through 2016 in Lucas County was 972. Higher overdose rates flowed directly from a sharp rise in opioid prescription rates in Lucas County. For instance, in 2012, the prescribing rate for opioids in Lucas County was 115 percent, or 115 opioid prescriptions written for every 100 Lucas County residents. Despite efforts by local and state officials to curb the crisis and limit the number of pills in the county, the prescribing rate remained above 98 percent in 2016.
The lawsuit, among other claims, alleges that the defendants sought to create a false perception in the minds of physicians, patients, health care providers and health care payors that using opioids to treat chronic pain was safe for most patients and that the drugs’ benefits outweighed the risks.
Drug distributors have both the obligation and the tools to track suspiciously large surges in opioid demand, including at the level of individual pharmacies or clinics. The lawsuit alleges, however, that the defendants have failed to use these tools to warn public officials about suspicious orders, which they are legally required to do, or to reasonably exercise control over the obvious oversupply of opioid pills.
The defendants in the lawsuit include Purdue Pharma, L.P.; Purdue Pharma, Inc.; The Purdue Frederick Company, Inc.; Endo Health Solutions Inc.; Endo Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; Janssen Pharmaceutica, Inc. n/k/a Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; Noramco, Inc.; Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc. n/k/a Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; Johnson & Johnson; Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd.; Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc.; Cephalon, Inc.; Allergan PLC f/k/a Actavis PLC; Allergan Finance, LLC f/k/a Actavis, Inc. f/k/a Watson Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; Watson Laboratories, Inc.; Actavis, LLC; Actavis Pharma, Inc. f/k/a Watson Pharma Inc.; Insys Therapeutics, Inc.; Mallinckrodt PLC; Mallinckrodt LLC; Cardinal Health Inc.; McKesson Corporation; AmerisourceBergen Corporation; CVS Health Corporation; The Kroger Co.; Rite Aid of Maryland, Inc. D/B/A RiteAid Mid-Atlantic Customer Support Center, Inc.; Walgreens Boots Alliance, Inc. A/K/A Walgreen Co.; Walmart Inc. F/K/A Walmart Stores, Inc.; H.D. Smith, LLC d/b/a H.D. Smith, f/k/a H.D. Smith Wholesale Drug Co.; H.D. Smith Holding Company; and Miami-Luken, Inc. The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Ohio.
Lucas County joins other litigants, including government entities, Native American Tribes, Third-Party Payors, and Hospital Systems in the multidistrict National Prescription Opiate Litigation formed in December 2017 and pending in Federal Court, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio. The Lucas County Board of Commissioners, Lucas County Children Services Board, and the Mental Health and Recovery Services Board of Lucas County are represented by Zoll & Kranz, LLC, a Toledo law firm representing plaintiffs in multidistrict and mass tort lawsuits and dedicated to ensuring companies release safer products and adequately inform their customers of risks. Zoll & Kranz is partnering with Simmons Hanly Conroy, LLC, one of the nation’s largest mass tort law firms. Both firms have extensive experience in litigating mass tort lawsuits and have been appointed to leadership positions in multiple multidistrict litigations. In January 2018, Paul Hanly, of Simmons Hanly Conroy, was appointed co-lead counsel of the multidistrict National Prescription Opiate Litigation to oversee all federal litigation brought against pharmaceutical companies and physicians involved in the marketing of prescription opioids. Those cases are being heard by the Honorable Judge Dan A. Polster in federal court in Ohio.