Add Dutchess County to the growing list of municipalities suing Stamford-based Purdue Pharma for the way it markets prescription opioids.
The civil action lawsuit against Purdue and 10 other pharmaceutical companies, filed on June 6 in New York State Supreme Court, seeks compensatory and punitive damages for tax dollars spent each year to combat the opioid crisis.
Purdue is facing a number of similar lawsuits, including ones filed by the states of Ohio and Mississippi, the town of Everett, Washington, and Broome, Erie, Orange and Suffolk counties in New York.
The Dutchess lawsuit alleges deceptive acts and practices, false advertising, public nuisance, violation of New York Social Services laws, fraud, and unjust enrichment against defendants Purdue Pharma L.P.; Purdue Pharma Inc.; The Purdue Frederick Company Inc.; Teva Pharmaceuticals USA Inc.; Cephalon Inc.; Johnson & Johnson; Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc.; Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc. n/k/a Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc.; Janssen Pharmaceutical Inc. n/k/a Janssen Pharmaceuticals; Endo Health Solutions Inc.; and Endo Pharmaceuticals Inc.; as well as physicians Russell Portenoy, Perry Fine, Scott Fishman and Lynn Webster, who allegedly were instrumental in promoting opioids for sale and distribution nationally, including in Dutchess County.
The lawsuit also points to criminal activity, including drug-trafficking offenses, as well as costs the county has incurred and continues to incur related to opioid addiction and abuse, such as those covering health care, criminal justice and victimization, social aspects and lost productivity.
“The opioid and heroin epidemic is the public health crisis of our lifetime and Dutchess County has lost far too many lives to this scourge,” said Dutchess County Executive Marcus J. Molinaro. “It is time drug companies acknowledge the devastating damage, take responsibility for their deceptive marketing practices, and be held accountable for misrepresenting the dangers of these addictive painkillers.”
The New York State Department of Health reported 805 opioid-related emergency department admissions in Dutchess County in 2014, an increase of 45 percent since 2010. From 2003-2014, 256 Dutchess County residents have died from opioids. According to a new report, Injury Facts 2017, from the National Safety Council, accidental poisoning was the leading cause of unintentional death in New York State in 2015, driven by unintentional drug overdose, predominantly from prescription painkillers.