• The Star Staff

Two island towns sue drug firms over damages caused by opioids

By The Star Staff

The municipalities of Adjuntas and Cidra separately sued some 40 ma- jor drug companies and firms in the supply chain in the U.S. District Court of Puerto Rico late Tuesday over damages to their towns caused by prescription opioids. The suits, which were separate but are identi- cal in their contents, were filed against doz- ens of pharmaceutical companies headed by Purdue Pharma, which is trying to settle a torrent of opioid-related lawsuits.

Included as defendants are Teva Pharmaceuticals, Cephalon Inc., Johnson & Johnson, and Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc., among others. The municipalities brought as a cause of action violations to the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act in which they said the firms engaged in an opioid enterprise as they “had a systematic link to each other through joint participation in lob- bying groups, trade industry organizations, contractual relationships and continuing coordination of activities.”

The towns are asserting two categories of claims against the pharmaceutical manufac- turers of prescription opioid drugs. The first is for engaging in a massive false marketing campaign to drastically expand the market for such drugs and their own market share, and the second is against entities in the sup- ply chain that reaped enormous financial rewards by failing to monitor and restrict the improper distribution of those opioid drugs. “This case arises from the worst man- made epidemic in modern medical history — the misuse, abuse, and over-prescription of opioids. America’s largest drug compa- nies saturated the country with 76 billion oxycodone and hydrocodone pain pills from 2006 through 2012 as the nation’s deadli- est drug epidemic spun out of control,” the lawsuits state. “The recently released DEA [Drug Enforcement Administration] pain pill database reveals what the companies knew about the number of pills they were shipping and dispensing and precisely when they were aware of those volumes, year by year, town by town. In case after case, the companies allowed the drugs to reach the streets of communities large and small, de- spite persistent red flags that those pills were being sold in apparent violation of federal law and diverted to the black market.”

The municipalities are seeking a judg- ment requiring all pharmaceutical compa- nies to pay restitution, damages, including multipliers of damages, disgorgement, civil penalties, attorney’s fees, costs, and expenses, injunctive relief, and any other relief to which they may be entitled.

The municipalities contend that the conduct of the drug companies has exacted a financial burden for which they seek relief. That burden includes the costs of providing medical care, additional thera- peutic, and prescription drug purchases, and other treatments for patients suffering from opioid-related addiction or disease, including overdoses and deaths. They also want reimbursement for the costs of providing treatment as well as counseling and rehabilitation services, and for providing treatment of infants born with opioid-related medical conditions.