PHILADELPHIA – Following years of deceptive marketing of prescription opioids that have created an unprecedented public health crisis, the City of Philadelphia today filed a lawsuit against prescription Opioid manufacturers.
“The epidemic currently plaguing the City has exacted a grim toll on Philadelphia residents and their families,” said Mayor Kenney. “And the cause can be directly linked to the methods used by manufacturers to market and sell their products to doctors and the public. Those tactics have to end.”
In addition to seeking to halt the deceptive marketing practices, the lawsuit, filed in the Philadelphia Common Pleas Court, seeks to force the Opioid manufacturers to pay for the costs of treatment of City residents suffering from opioid addiction and opioid use disorder, and to recover costs the City itself has incurred responding to the epidemic. Defendants in the suit are Allergan/Actavis; Cephalon and Teva; Endo; Janssen and Johnson & Johnson; and Purdue, which are companies that make and sell prescription opioids.
Those City costs include funding for first-responders who treat opioid overdoses, funding of public health and human services programs that treat addicted City residents, increased resources to fund the City’s criminal justice and prison systems, and expenditures to many other City departments and programs affected by the use and abuse of opioids. The lawsuit also seeks to recoup costs the City spent through its self-funded health insurance plans to purchase opioids for City employees who were prescribed opioids by their doctors.
“This public health crisis harms public safety, order, and economic productivity,” said Solicitor Sozi Pedro Tulante. “City agencies have incurred large, burdensome, unnecessary and avoidable costs to address the crisis. It is our duty to devote all resources we can to help protect the public from further perils and to finally put an end to the practices which are the root of this epidemic.”
The City’s Health Department estimates that one in three adults in Philadelphia has received a prescription for opioids in the past 12 months and one in seven – or some 168,000 – is currently taking these dangerous drugs. Some of those people become addicted, and every week some overdose on opioids. The number of fatal overdoses continues its staggering rise in the City. When the final tally is complete, the 2017 total is expected to reach 1,200 – a one-third increase over 2016. According to data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2016 Philadelphia suffered a rate of overdose deaths per-capita that was fourth highest in the nation and higher than any other large city.
“The opioid crisis is the largest public health crisis this city has seen in a century, and it has been fueled by drug companies”, said Dr. Thomas Farley, Health Commissioner for Philadelphia. “It’s well past time for those companies to stop pushing these drugs and start helping us cope with the human tragedy they have caused.”
Overwhelming scientific evidence has demonstrated that the marketing of opioids to treat chronic pain has been the principal causative factor driving the opioid addiction epidemic, the multi-year surge in non-prescription, illegal opioid use including the use of heroin, and the rapid spike in opioid-related overdose deaths.
Effects of the crises in Philadelphia can also be seen among the historically high incidences of babies born with opiate withdrawal conditions, increases in new Hepatitis C infections caused by opiate injections, sharp increases in the level of opioid-related emergency room visits and hospitalizations; and the extensive amount of emergency services provided by the Fire Department and other City agencies in reviving and transporting overdose victims.
Overall, the City has had to devote tremendous resources city-wide to deal with the crises including those by the Police Department, District Attorney’s Office, Public Defender’s Office, Department of Prisons, Health Department, Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services, Department of Human Services, and the Office of Homeless Services.
Philadelphia has published a strategy to deal with the crisis in the Final Report of the Mayor’s Task Force to Combat the Opioid Epidemic in Philadelphia. Information about the Task Force is available at https://dbhids.org/opioid.
In addition to the City’s Law Department, the City is represented in the case by David Kairys, and attorneys from Berger & Montague, P.C., Dilworth Paxson, LLP, Sheller, P.C., Sacks Weston Diamond, LLC, Young Ricchiuti, Caldwell & Heller, LLC.
A copy of the City’s Complaint is available here: https://tinyurl.com/phillyopioidsuit.