×

Greenfield sues big pharma over opioids

  • Pills of the opioid oxycodone-acetaminophen (photo taken Aug. 15, 2017, in New York). AP Photo/Patrick Sison

  • A Feb. 19, 2013, photo of OxyContin pills arranged for a photo at a pharmacy in Montpelier, Vt. AP Photo/Toby Talbot



For the Gazette
Friday, December 15, 2017

GREENFIELD — Greenfield has become the first community in the state to file a lawsuit against opioid distributors and manufacturers, joining dozens of other cities and towns across the country that are looking for financial reparations for the ongoing addiction epidemic.

The Greenfield lawsuit harks back to a move Congress made in 1970 to try to control the number of opioid pills distributed. The goal was to have manufacturers “halt suspicious orders and control against the diversion of these dangerous drugs to illegitimate uses,” a statement from the law firm in charge of the suit explains.

Now this lawsuit, filed Thursday in the U.S. District Court in Springfield, plans to hold these manufacturers accountable for their actions, asking for the damages accrued over the years.

Greenfield Mayor William Martin hopes this lawsuit will do one of two things: raise awareness of the extent of the problem locally and help the town cope with the social consequences of the epidemic.

“We wouldn’t have this situation if we didn’t have lax monitoring of opioids,” Martin said.

The defendants named in the suit include big name companies like Teva Pharmaceuticals, Johnson & Johnson, Janssen Pharmaceuticals and Purdue Pharma.

Purdue Pharma responded to the Greenfield lawsuit in a statement: “We are deeply troubled by the prescription and illicit opioid abuse crisis, and are dedicated to being part of the solution. ... We vigorously deny these allegations and look forward to the opportunity to present our defense.”

The suit was put together by Martin and Greenfield native Thomas Merrigan of Sweeney Merrigan Law in Boston.

While Merrigan, a former district court judge in Greenfield, said the lawsuit will not likely be concluded for several years, he said it’s important to sign on now, in part because “the extent of this epidemic is going to require massive (financial) resources.”

“This is just another facet of the community power to try and fix the epidemic,” Merrigan said, alluding to local addiction-fighting efforts like the Opioid Task Force of Franklin County and the North Quabbin, which his brother John heads.

Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan, a co-founder of the task force, agreed with the goal of the lawsuit.

“Opioid manufacturers and distributors need to be held accountable for their outrageous sales and marketing practices,” Sullivan said in a statement. “Their reckless conduct has inflicted death and sorrow in every community in America. The funds recovered should go toward prevention, treatment and recovery.”

Other communities have filed suits noting the similarity with actions filed a generation ago against cigarette makers.

The Greenfield lawsuit states that the town has been “hit particularly hard by the opioid crisis” and the “high rate of prescriptions only scratches the surface of the full extent of the problem in Greenfield and Franklin County.”

Further, the suit claims that nine in 10 people in Franklin County who need addiction treatment do not receive it.

“Let’s stop kidding ourselves and have them own up to their obligation to be compliant with the law, which would prevent community addiction,” Martin said.

The mayor added that this lawsuit, which will likely be settled well after his current term in office, could help to ease a burden on the taxpayer that this epidemic has created.

“One unique part of this is I see the need for tax dollars to go to social service agencies and non-government organizations to create a support network for each addicted individual. I think that’s wonderful. I think that’s a good response,” Martin said. “But I’m wondering how we all end up paying for it. ... The real epidemic is everyone is coming up with more time, more money and more programs to satisfy (the manufacturers’ and distributors’) mistake.”

Defendants

The complete list of defendants, as stated in the lawsuit, are as follows: AmerisourceBergen Drug Corporation; Cardinal Health Inc.; McKesson Corporation; Purdue Pharma L.P.; Purdue Pharma Inc.; The Purdue Frederick Company Inc.; Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, Ltd.; Teva pharmaceuticals USA Inc.; Cephalon Inc.; Johnson & Johnson; Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc.; Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc. (now known as) Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc.; Janssen Pharmaceutica Inc. n/k/a Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc.; Noramco Inc.; Endo Health Solutions Inc.; Endo Pharmaceuticals Inc.; Allergan plc (formerly known as) Actavis pls; Watson Pharmaceuticals Inc. n/k/a Actavis Inc.; Watson Laboratories Inc.; Actavis LLC; Actavis Pharma Inc. f/k/a Watson Pharma Inc.; Mallinckrodt plc and Mallinckrodt LLC.