Smith County filed a lawsuit Tuesday against prescription opioid manufacturers and distributors.
The lawsuit is an effort to recover taxpayer money spent to fight the opioid epidemic and defray costs to the Smith County community. Mark P. Chalos, of the national plaintiffs’ law firm Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP, made the announcement on behalf of the county.
The lawsuit alleges that the prescription opioid manufacturers violated the law by heralding opioids as safe and medically necessary, despite them being extremely addictive. Further, Smith County charges the manufacturers with concealing the true risks of these jobs, to the detriment of Smith County’s government and its residents.
As Business Wire reported:
The complaint states that these defendants also conspired to manufacture and distribute millions of doses of highly addictive opioids, knowing that they were being trafficked and used for illicit purposes, and recklessly disregarded their devastating effect on the taxpayers and government of Smith County. As a result of the conspiracy, Smith County taxpayers have spent many hundreds of thousands of dollars to fight the opioid crisis and deal with its effects on their community.
“What we have seen throughout our region is millions of pills being sold in communities where there aren’t millions of people. It’s time the opioid manufacturers faced responsibility for their destructive and wrongful conduct that has led to injuries and destroyed lives and families across Smith County, across Tennessee, and throughout the U.S.,” Chalos said in a statement.
Multiple defendants are named in the Smith County lawsuit, including: Purdue Pharma, Cephalon, Teva Pharmaceutical, Johnson & Johnson, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Noramco Inc., Endo Health Solutions, Mallinckrodt, Allergan, Actavis, Watson Pharmaceuticals, Insys Therapeutics, AmerisourceBergen Drug Corporation, Cardinal Health, and additional affiliated businesses and entities.
Smith County alleges multiple instances of misconduct by the opioid manufacturers and distributors:
Defendants falsely and misleadingly, and contrary to the language of their drugs’ labels: (1) downplayed the serious risk of addiction; (2) promoted the concept of “pseudoaddiction” and thus advocated that the signs of addiction should be treated with more opioids; (3) exaggerated the effectiveness of screening tools in preventing addiction; (4) claimed that opioid dependence and withdrawal are easily managed; (5) denied the risks of higher opioid dosages; and (6) exaggerated the effectiveness of “abuse-deterrent” opioid formulations to prevent abuse and addiction. Conversely, Defendants also falsely touted the benefits of long-term opioid use, including the supposed ability of opioids to improve function and quality of life, even though there was no good evidence to support Defendants’ claims.
In short, Smith County accuses these companies of pushing opioids on doctors and patients not in response to medical experiments, breakthroughs, or test results, but only based on misleading claims about the safety and efficacy of these highly addictive drugs. Smith County insists that courts hold companies accountable for what it sees as deceptive and misleading marketing.
The Smith County lawsuit follows similar efforts by Shelby County to hold pharmaceutical companies accountable over illegal ‘opioid abuse.’
The Tennessee Star reported that Shelby County made serious allegations against opioid manufacturers and distributors who are defendants in a lawsuit filed earlier this year in a Tennessee state court:
Defendants knew that opioids were effective treatments for short-term post-surgical and trauma-related pain, and for palliative (end-of-life) care. Yet they also knew – and had known for years – that opioids were addictive and subject to abuse, particularly when used long-term for chronic non- cancer pain (pain lasting three months or longer, hereinafter referred to as “chronic pain”), and should there not be used except as a last-resort.
The Shelby County Commission recently voted to override Mayor Luttrell’s Veto of the Opioid Lawsuit, and the lawsuit continues, as The Star reported last month.
The Star will report on further updates as these two lawsuits unfold. Other counties in the state are considering filing similar lawsuits of their own.