Simmons Hanly Conroy, one of the nation’s largest law firms focused on consumer protection and mass tort actions, filed a lawsuit on behalf of Oswego County against pharmaceutical companies and physicians over the “aggressive and fraudulent marketing of prescription opioid painkillers that has led to a drug epidemic in the county and throughout the nation.”
The county is seeking compensation and punitive damages for millions of dollars it spends each year to combat the public nuisance created by these drug companies.
According to the complaint, at least 67 Oswego County residents died from opioid-related overdose fatalities between 2009 and 2014.
In 2014 alone, there were 245 opioid-related emergency department admissions in Oswego County, a 113 percent increase since 2010, and 380 inpatient hospital admissions for the same reason.
More than 700 Oswego County residents were admitted to chemical dependence treatment programs in 2015.
Officials reported a total of 118 naloxone administration events, though actual numbers of administration events may be higher.
The defendants in the lawsuit are: 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.; Janssen Pharmaceutica, Inc.; Endo Health Solutions Inc.; Endo Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; Insys Therapeutics, Inc.; Dr. Russell Portenoy; Dr. Perry Fine; Dr. Scott Fishman; and Dr. Lynn Webster.
The lawsuit alleges the defendants sought to create a false perception in the minds of physicians, patients, health care providers and health care payors that using opioids to treat chronic pain was safe for most patients and that the drugs’ benefits outweighed the risks.
Simmons filed a similar suit on behalf of eight counties in New York last year.
“Oswego County is the latest in an expanding list of New York counties to conclude that drug companies must be held responsible for their fraudulent and deceptive role in causing the worst drug epidemic the country has ever seen,” said Simmons Hanly Conroy Shareholder Paul Hanly, lead counsel for the county in this case. “The defendants have manufactured, promoted and marketed opioids by omitting critical information that has long been known about the drugs’ addictive qualities and other risks associated with their prolonged use.”