Five More Western Virginia Communities Join the Fight Against the Opioid Industry: Lawsuits Allege Defendants’ Illegal Practices Devastated Western Virginia Communities

Posted March 27th, 2019.

(March 27, 2019) – Five more localities in Western Virginia, represented by Sanford Heisler Sharp, LLP, Kaufman & Canoles, P.C., and The Cicala Law Firm PLLC, 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 cities of Bristol, Roanoke, and Salem and the Counties of Roanoke and Alleghany each filed individual lawsuits in state court against opioid manufacturers, distributors, and PBMs — including pharmaceutical titans Purdue Pharma, McKesson and CVS Caremark. The lawsuits allege that each defendant has contributed to the opioid crisis in Virginia – drug manufacturers make the opioids and mispresent the truth about their benefits and addiction risks; wholesale distributors ignore their responsibilities to report and stop suspicious orders; and PBMs leverage their role as middlemen to increase the flow of opioids into the marketplace. The localities have 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.

It is widely believed that Western Virginia was among the first targets of defendants’ nationwide scheme to push the dispensing of opioids for chronic non-cancer pain. The resulting and foreseeable wave of opioid-addiction in Virginia has been devastating.

The rate of opioid overdose deaths has risen substantially in all five localities since the late 1990s, when the defendants began to push opioids for non-cancer pain. The localities have also been saddled with increased rates of neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) and increased rates of Hepatitis C – a viral condition that can be spread through opioid injection.

Predictably, the influx of opioids into communities in Western Virginia has also caused an unprecedented spike in crime, strains on law enforcement and courts, and a dramatic uptick in the need for foster and other child-placement services. All five localities that filed suit on Monday 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 Western Virginia. 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. 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,” said Kevin H. Sharp of Sanford Heisler Sharp, LLP.

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.”

About Sanford Heisler Sharp, LLP

Sanford Heisler Sharp, LLP is a public interest class-action litigation law firm with offices in New York, Washington, D.C, Nashville, Baltimore, San Francisco, and San Diego. Our attorneys have graduated from the nation’s top law schools, clerked for judges throughout the United States, and amassed extensive experience litigating and trying cases that have earned over one billion dollars for our clients.

The Firm specializes in civil rights and general public interest cases, representing plaintiffs with claims of employment discrimination, labor and wage violations, predatory lending, consumer fraud, and whistleblowing, among other claims. Along with a focus on class actions, the Firm also represents individuals and has achieved extraordinary success in the representation of executives and attorneys in employment disputes.

For more information go to www.sanfordheisler.com or call (202) 499-5200 or email ksharp@sanfordheisler.com. For the latest news, visit our newsroom or follow us on Twitter at @sanfordheisler.

About Kaufman & Canoles, P.C.

Tracing its roots to 1919, Kaufman & Canoles has a long-standing history of representing local governments and municipalities throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia with a variety of legal needs. With 8 offices in Virginia, the firm is known for its rich history, highly-respected attorneys, business connections, and a deep commitment to improving the communities it serves. For more information, visit www.kaufcan.com.

About The Cicala Law Firm PLLC

The Cicala Law Firm PLLC is a plaintiff’s civil litigation firm with particular expertise in prosecuting commercial, consumer and health care fraud matters on behalf of individuals, businesses and governmental clients. It maintains a diverse, experienced and nimble team comprised of attorneys, analysts, health care and IT professionals. The firm is committed to taking advantage of cutting edge technology to identity claims and particularize damages, including through data mining.

For more information go to www.cicalapllc.com or call (512) 275-6550 or email joanne@cicalapllc.com.

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