Local hospitals sue opioid distributors, allege "pattern of rack - FOX10 News | WALA

Local hospitals sue opioid distributors, allege "pattern of racketeering" as cause for opioid crisis

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(WALA) -

In a 134 page complaint, attorneys for local hospitals allege several multi-billion dollar drug companies are responsible for the opioid epidemic, due to their alleged fraudulent marketing and distribution of pain pills. 

One of the most stunning aspects to this suit, is that it's employing the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO Act, which is normally used against organized crime.

The lawsuit alleges several powerful pharmaceutical companies have been acting like drug gangs, who "pushed highly addictive, dangerous opioids, falsely representing to doctors that patients would only rarely succumb to drug addiction... and aggressively advertised and persuaded doctors to prescribe highly addictive, dangerous opioids, and turned patients into drug addicts for their own corporate profit."

Attorneys for Infirmary Health Hospitals and Monroe County Hospital in Alabama, as well as the Southwest Mississippi Regional Medical Center, filed the class action suit against several drug companies including Purdue Pharma, Johnson and Johnson, Endo Pharmaceuticals, and Teva Pharmaceuticals. 

In the suit, the hospitals go on to allege the companies participated in a "pattern of racketeering" by purposely failing to report suspicious orders of their prescription opioids, despite being required by law to do so. 

The suit says the hospitals are seeking to recover "at least some of the costs they have borne in responding on the front lines of the (opioid) crisis."

While the drug companies have a few weeks to respond in court to the lawsuit, some representatives have sent us their takes on the allegations.

Janssens Pharmaceuticals, a company under Johnson and Johnson, sent the following statement:

"Responsibly used opioid-based pain medicines give doctors and patients important choices to help manage the debilitating effects of chronic pain. At the same time, we recognize opioid abuse and addiction is a serious public health issue that must be addressed. We believe the allegations in lawsuits against our company are both legally and factually unfounded.  Janssen has acted in the best interests of patients and physicians with regard to its opioid pain medicines, which are FDA-approved and carry FDA-mandated warnings about possible risks on every product label. According to independent surveillance data, Janssen opioid pain medicines consistently have some of the lowest rates of abuse among these medications, and since 2008 the volume of Janssen opioid products always has amounted to less than one percent of the total prescriptions written per year for opioid medications, including generics.  Addressing opioid abuse will require collaboration among many stakeholders and we will continue to work with federal, state and local officials to support solutions." -William Foster, spokesperson, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

Endo sent the following statement:

"Endo is dedicated to providing safe, quality products to patients in need and we share the public concern regarding opioid abuse and misuse. We are committed to working collaboratively to develop and implement a comprehensive solution to the opioid crisis, which is a complex problem with several causes that are difficult to disentangle. Any serious solution must therefore be multifaceted and consider, among other things, the legitimate access needs of the millions of patients suffering from acute or chronic pain who rely on opioids to improve their quality of life.

Toward that goal, Endo has taken meaningful action during the past year by voluntarily ceasing opioid promotion and eliminating its entire product salesforce. Endo also voluntarily withdrew Opana® ER from the market following FDA’s request despite having a statutory right to challenge that request, implemented additional anti-diversion measures and terminated its new opioid product development programs.

It is Endo's policy not to comment on current litigation. That said, we deny the allegations contained in this lawsuit and intend to vigorously defend the Company."

Purdue Pharma sent the following statement:

“We are deeply troubled by the opioid crisis and we are dedicated to being part of the solution. As a company grounded in science, we must balance patient access to FDA-approved medicines, while working collaboratively to solve this public health challenge. Although our products account for approximately 2% of the total opioid prescriptions, as a company, we’ve distributed the CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain, developed three of the first four FDA-approved opioid medications with abuse-deterrent properties and partner with law enforcement to ensure access to naloxone. We vigorously deny these allegations and look forward to the opportunity to present our defense.”

Teva Pharmaceuticals did not respond to a request for comment. 

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