Floyd and Three Other Virginia Communities Join the Fight Against Opioid Industry

Posted May 11th, 2019.

As It Appeared On
Roanoke Star

Lawsuits Allege Defendants’ Illegal Practices Devastated Virginia Communities

Four more localities in Virginia have initiated legal action against opioid manufacturers, distributors, and pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) for their role in creating the public health emergency caused by the overuse of prescription opioids.

The Counties of Floyd, Louisa, and Madison and the City of Covington each filed individual lawsuits in state court against opioid manufacturers, distributors, and PBMs — including pharmaceutical titans Purdue Pharma, McKesson and CVS Caremark. They are all represented by represented by Sanford Heisler Sharp, LLP, Kaufman & Canoles, P.C., and The Cicala Law Firm PLLC,

The lawsuits allege that each defendant has contributed to the opioid crisis in Virginia – and that drug manufacturers who make the opioids have mispresented the truth about their benefits and addiction risks; the suits maintain that wholesale distributors have ignored their responsibilities to report and stop suspicious orders and that PBMs have leveraged their role as middlemen to increase the flow of opioids into the marketplace. The localities have also all alleged violations of statutory and common law public nuisance, the Virginia Consumer Protection Act, fraud, common law conspiracy, negligence, and unjust enrichment.

The defendants include manufacturers Purdue Pharma, Abbott Laboratories, Endo Pharmaceuticals, Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals; Teva Pharmaceuticals, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Cephalon, Inc., Barr Laboratories, Inc., Actavis Pharma, Watson Laboratories, Inc., Allergan PLC, and Insys Therapeutics; distributors AmerisourceBergen Drug Corp., Cardinal Health Inc., and McKesson Corp.; and PBMs Express Scripts, Inc., Caremark/CVS Health; United Health Group Inc., and OptumRx, Inc.

The rate of opioid overdose deaths has risen substantially in all four localities since the late 1990s, when the defendants allegedly began to push opioids for non-cancer pain. The rise in overdose deaths in the communities, along with increases in other opioid-related problems such as babies being born addicted to opioids and the spread of Hepatitis C, have coincided with startling increases in the number of opioids that the defendants have marketed, distributed, and reimbursed in the communities.

The counties say that the influx of opioids into communities in Virginia has also caused an unprecedented spike in crime, strains on law enforcement and courts, and an uptick in the need for foster and other child-placement services.

All four localities that filed suit on Friday say they have been forced to spend substantial and precious public monies to address all of the harms caused by the scourge of opioids that was intentionally unleashed in Virginia and that the lawsuits “aim to recover such costs and, critically, to abate the flow of these dangerous drugs into our communities.”

“We are pleased to represent these Virginia communities as they seek to hold the defendants accountable for their reprehensible actions and recover the funds the community has spent to address the impact of the opioid crisis,” said Kevin H. Sharp of Sanford Heisler Sharp, LLP. “The citizens of these cities and counties deserve justice for the harms inflicted upon them by the defendants and our respective firms are proud to take on this fight on their behalf.”

Joanne Cicala added, “the opioid epidemic is not accidental. It is not a natural disaster. It is a man-made crisis. And worse – the companies that did this were not just seeking to build market share – they knew they were creating addicts. No local government wants to have to file a lawsuit. Local governments have enough to do already, providing services to the public on tight budgets. But this man-made crisis is costing these cities and counties dearly – and so they must respond. Those responsible for this epidemic – those who profited from it – must be held accountable for its costs.”

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