Home Fairfield Long Island, Tennessee counties file suits against Purdue Pharma, other drugmakers

Long Island, Tennessee counties file suits against Purdue Pharma, other drugmakers

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Long Island’s Nassau County and the district attorneys general of Tennessee’s First, Second and Third Judicial Districts are the latest to file lawsuits against Stamford-based Purdue Pharma and other opioid manufacturers.

The Nassau County suit, filed in Nassau County Supreme Court, alleges that Purdue, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. and Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc. – as well as several drug distributors and doctors – have significantly contributed to the opioid epidemic that costs the county millions of dollars annually to fight.

“The opioid crisis is costing taxpayers millions of dollars a year, and this action seeks to recoup dollars for important awareness, education, enforcement and treatment initiatives to combat the war on drug abuse and addiction,” said Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano.

The county is seeking compensatory and punitive damages.

The Tennessee action, filed in Sullivan County Circuit Court in Kingsport, accuses Purdue Pharma, Mallinckrodt PLC and Endo Pharmaceuticals, as well as Center Pointe Medical Clinic LLC and two convicted opioid dealers, of various misdeeds designed to mislead doctors and the public about the need for, and addictive nature of, opioid drugs. The suit maintains that those efforts have helped create Sullivan County’s opioid epidemic and placed a financial burden upon law enforcement, taxpayers and other citizens.

In addition, the suit cites Tennessee Department of Health data showing that, from Jan. 1 to April 1 of this year, approximately 48 of every 1,000 births in Sullivan County were Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) cases. Children born with NAS experience agonizing withdrawal symptoms as their bodies emerge from the influence of drugs.

According to the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, the average cost of care for babies born with NAS is roughly 10 times more than babies born without NAS. The average cost to stabilize an NAS newborn is $63,000, while the average cost for a non-NAS newborn is approximately $7,200. For the entire state of Tennessee, the care for 660 babies born with NAS cost $41.5 million for most of 2013, compared to $4.79 million for the same number born without NAS.

The lawsuit demands judgment against the defendants for damages resulting from breaches of statutory and common law, seeks to award restitution to the plaintiffs, and an injunction to stop the flood of opioids to the region.

“For many years, Purdue Pharma has inaccurately promoted OxyContin as being an appropriate medication for chronic pain and being less likely than other pain medications to cause addiction,” said J. Gerard Stranch IV, managing partner for Nashville, Tennessee-based law firm Branstetter, Stranch & Jennings, PLLC. “Their aggressive marketing of this product has resulted in an opioid epidemic that is ravaging Tennessee, causing immense suffering to those born addicted to opioids, and costing millions of dollars to local governments forced to deal with the aftermath.”

The lawsuit demands judgment against the defendants for damages resulting from breaches of statutory and common law, seeks to award restitution to the plaintiffs, and an injunction to stop the flood of opioids to the region.

Purdue Pharma and the other drug makers have said they share the public’s concerns about the crisis and are committed to finding collaborative solutions.

The Stamford company is facing a number of similar lawsuits, including ones filed by the states of Ohio and Mississippi, the town of Everett, Washington, and Dutchess, Broome, Erie, Orange and Suffolk counties in New York.

In addition, Governor Dannel Malloy and the members of Connecticut’s Congressional delegation announced on June 13 that the state is receiving a $3.1 million federal grant to expand efforts combatting the prescription opioid crisis, particularly helping to provide youth and their families access to long-term substance use treatment that focuses on recovery.

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