Photo Courtesy of DEA
“Big Pharma helped to fuel this epidemic by deceptively peddling these dangerous drugs and hooking millions of Americans in exchange for profit,” Mayor de Blasio said.
By Forum Staff
The City has filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit in State Supreme Court against the country’s top manufacturers and distributors of prescription opioid painkillers in an attempt to hold the companies responsible for the costs NYC will incur to combat the epidemic of addiction, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Tuesday.
The suit – which names Purdue, Teva, Cephalon, Johnson & Johnson, Janssen, among others – aims to recover half a billion dollars in current and future costs.
De Blasio noted that in 2016, more than 1,000 people in the five boroughs died in a drug overdose which involved an opioid, the highest year on record. More residents died from opioid overdoses last year than from car accidents and homicides combined.
“Big Pharma helped to fuel this epidemic by deceptively peddling these dangerous drugs and hooking millions of Americans in exchange for profit,” the mayor said. “It’s time to hold the companies accountable for what they’ve done to our city, and help save more lives.”
According to the lawsuit, the opioid crisis caused by manufacturers’ deceptive marketing, and distributors’ flooding of prescription painkillers into New York City has placed a substantial burden on the City through increased substance-use treatment services, ambulatory services, emergency department services, inpatient hospital services, medical examiner costs, criminal justice costs, and law enforcement costs.
Furthermore, according to court papers, manufacturers sought to create a false perception that using opioids to treat chronic pain was safe for most patients and that the drugs’ benefits outweighed the risks. This was perpetrated through a “coordinated, sophisticated and highly deceptive” promotion and marketing campaign – including unbranded messaging to evade extensive regulatory framework governing branded communications. These communications, which began in the late 1990s, became more aggressive around 2006 and continue today, the City said.
“Corporations that spend millions on research and marketing cannot claim that they did not know the consequences of their actions,” said Queens District Attorney Richard Brown.
Additionally, the suit indicates that the distributors, who have both the obligation and the tools to track suspiciously large surges in opioid demand, including at the level of individual pharmacies or clinics, have failed to use these tools to warn public officials about suspicious orders, which they are legally required to do, or to reasonably exercise controls over the obvious oversupply of opioid pills.
The prescription painkiller, heroin, and fentanyl crisis has had serious impacts on the city. According to the administration, the number of drug overdose deaths has increased within the five boroughs in each of the last six years. Rates of drug overdose deaths in NYC more than doubled between 2010 and 2016. The City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene reports that while drug overdose deaths impact every neighborhood and demographic in New York City, residents of impoverished neighborhoods are the hardest hit. Roughly 2.7 million opioid prescriptions were filled in the Big Apple each year between 2014 and 2016.
“The opioid epidemic has been exacerbated by the irresponsible actions of drug companies—and they need to be held responsible for their actions,” said Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Herminia Palacio, M.D.