- New York City is seeking half a billion dollars from some of the nation's largest opioid drug developers and distributors for "deceptive" marketing tactics that the city claims helped fuel an overdose epidemic.
- A lawsuit from the city, filed Tuesday with the New York State Supreme Court, names Johnson & Johnson, Purdue Pharma LP, Teva Pharmaceuticals USA Inc., Cephalon Inc., Endo Health Solutions Inc., Allergan plc, Cardinal Health Inc., McKesson Corp. and AmerisourceBergen Drug Corp. as defendants. Notably, the state of Delaware filed its own opioid-centric lawsuit last week targeting many of the same companies.
- "More New Yorkers have died from opioid overdoses than car crashes and homicides combined in recent years," New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, said in a Tuesday statement. "Big Pharma helped to fuel this epidemic by deceptively peddling these dangerous drugs and hooking millions of Americans in exchange for profit."
Week by week — sometimes day by day — the mountain of litigation against opioid drugmakers has grown. It's a trend that's sure to continue.
The lawsuits are a byproduct of prescription painkiller abuse, which reached epidemic levels as it swept across the U.S. in recent years. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates prescription opioid overdoses claimed 46 American lives each day in 2016 and public health officials say the crisis is not abating.
New York now joins a line of other cities and counties looking for retribution against companies that make, commercialize or distribute opioid drugs. In its lawsuit, the city asserted that pharmaceutical firms used direct-to-consumer advertising, support from key opinion leaders (KOLs) and other marketing strategies in an underhanded way to increase the prescribing and profitability of their opioid products.
"Like cigarette manufacturers, which engaged in an industry-wide effort to misrepresent the safety and risks of smoking, the Manufacturers worked with each other and with the Front Groups and KOLs they funded and directed to carry out a common scheme to deceptively present the risks, benefits, and superiority of opioids to treat chronic pain," the city wrote in its complaint.
An analysis released late last year from the White House's Council of Economic Advisors found the opioid drug epidemic cost the U.S. more than $500 billion in 2015. From its end, New York is asking for $500 million to cover "current and future costs the City will incur to combat this epidemic," according to the Jan. 23 statement.
States jumping in
New York's lawsuit comes less than a week after Delaware's Attorney General Matt Denn filed a complaint against a slew of opioid drugmakers and distributors, including Purdue, Endo and McKesson.
In Delaware's case, the state also claimed that manufacturers made misleading statements about the risks associated with their prescription painkillers. Additionally, the lawsuit called out distributors and pharmacies for failing to divert opioids away from "illegitimate channels."
President Donald Trump in March established a White House commission focused on the opioid crisis, while Congress has introduced bills aimed at preventing and treating opioid addiction. Critics have noted, however, that those efforts haven't produced many meaningful solutions to the problem, nor have they provided much in new funding.
States and cities, meanwhile, have been quite proficient at passing laws that set limits or requirements for opioid prescribing. As of August, 24 states had enacted such legislation, according to the National Conference of State Legislators. Missouri, Ohio and Kentucky are just a few other states that have submitted complaints against opioid drug developers.