Mayor Joe Hogsett announced Thursday morning that the law firm of Cohen & Malad, LLP has been hired to pursue the legal action. Lead attorney Irwin Levin alleges the billion-dollar companies misled patients into thinking their pain medications were not addictive, to increase sales.
“We see that the industry took a drug that was orginally prescribed only for end of life palliative care, cancer treatment, and they marketed it for chronic pain,” said Levin.
Hogsett says their pain pill addiction led to other addictions, like heroin which increased the number of overdose deaths.
“They all sought relief from pain and were instead administered addiction,” said Mayor Hogsett.
Nearly 350 people died as a result of opioid addiction in Marion County in 2016. It’s the highest number of overdose deaths to date in Marion County, but it doesn’t appear to be slowing down. In 2017 alone, Narcan, used to give naxolone to revive someone suffering from an overdose, has been administered more than 1,600 times. That’s a pace that will top last year’s record-high administrations of naxolone.
During a news conference Thursday morning, Mayor Hogsett and Levin placed blame on manufacturing and distributing companies like Purdue Pharma, Endo Health, Teva Pharmeceuticals, Cardinal Health, McKesson Corporation and AmerisourceBergen.
Levin listed OxyContin and oxycodone as examples of prescription pain medications that are of particular concern. He said Suboxone and methadone would not be included in the lawsuit.
“These potential defendants spread the false message that opioids were safe for chronic pain and not addictive,” Levin alleges.
Levin says the companies have legal obligations to report suspicious opioid orders: “They saw unquestionably suspicious orders of opioids but turned a blind eye to their legal duties and obligations to stop and report those orders.”
The suit will seek damages for what the city has had to pay for extra resources, such as paying police to respond to drug-related incidents or overdoses, social services and the Narcan used to revive people who have overdosed.
“Just the cost of Narcan for the county over the past year is astronomical,” said Levin. He couldn’t give a dollar amount but said, “When you drill down and you look at everything the city has paid, it’s a lot of money. There’s a lot of need going forward.”
They city is also looking for what they call forward relief — to cover the cost of resources they need to move forward.
They accused the companies of being motivated by money, saying three of the distributors make up nearly 90 percent of the opioid market, raking in more than $100 billion last year alone.