New York Metropolis sues Large Pharma over the opioid epidemic

Ann Santiago
January 24, 2018

Tuesday's filing follows a suit the city leveled against oil companies, similarly accusing them of contributing to climate change, which the mayor announced on January 10.

The city, de Blasio said, is spending more than $500 million a year to address the epidemic.

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Elizabeth Sackler, a daughter of one of the company's founders, told The New York Times that Purdue Pharma's role in the opioid crisis was "morally abhorrent to me".

De Blasio acknowledged the "real progress" being made on Staten Island and in the Bronx in combating the opioid epidemic, but said the city needed to "go deeper" in addressing the problem. "It's time for them to be held accountable", de Blasio said.

New York City's lawsuit claims drugmakers and drug distributors misrepresented the safety of long-term opioid use, thereby facilitating widespread proliferation of the drugs.

The city's lawsuit, filed in the State Supreme Court, claims that deceptive marketing and an excessive distribution of drugs in the NY market led to the city spending millions of dollars on hospital services, treatment programs, and other consequences. More New Yorkers died from opioid overdoses past year than from auto accidents and homicides combined.

Other municipalities in NY have made moves to hold opioid manufacturers and distributors accountable, and cities across the country, including Chicago, Seattle and Cincinnati, have taken legal action against drug companies.

Defendants included Allergan, Endo, Purdue Pharma, Johnson & Johnson, Teva Pharmaceuticals, among other subsidiaries, and distributors McKesson, AmerisourceBergen and Cardinal Health.

"It's time for big pharma to pay for what they have done, it's time to them to be held accountable", the mayor continued.

McKesson said it reports hundreds of thousands of suspicious orders to federal authorities each year and that "this complicated, multi-faceted public-health crisis can not be solved by any one participant", but needs to come from a comprehensive approach involving everyone from doctors to insurance companies to distributors and manufacturers.

New York City said roughly 2.5 million to 2.7 million opioid prescriptions were filled there each year from 2014 to 2016.

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Opioids killed more than 42,000 people in the 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The suit is similar to others filed by hundreds of city, local and state governments around the nation. People in need of treatment and their families need support now, ' he said.

"Our industry and our company have and will continue to take meaningful action to reduce opioid abuse", it said, adding that it was supporting initiatives to educate doctors and develop non-opioid painkillers. Forty percent of opioid overdoses in 2016 involved a prescription opioid, the CDC said.

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