City files suit against drug manufacturers over opioid epidemic

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The city of Indianapolis on Tuesday filed its previously announced federal lawsuit against drug manufacturers, blaming them for exacerbating “a dramatic increase in the use of prescription opioid pain medications” by using deceptive marketing tactics and through their “failure to identify, report, and stop suspicious orders of those medications.”

The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Indiana, names two dozen entities, including Stamford, Connecticut-based Purdue Pharma LPwhich produces OxyContinas well as Cephalon Inc, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd., Johnson & Johnson and Janssen Pharmaceuticals.

Purdue Pharma, a private company not affiliated with Purdue University, is facing dozens of similar lawsuits from cities, counties and states.

The suit didn't specify an amount the city would seek in damages. The city announced plans for the suit on Oct. 5.

In the filing prepared by law firm of Cohen & Malad LLP, the city said it brought the action to “eliminate the hazard to public health and safety caused by the opioid epidemic.”

"Opioids provide effective treatment for short-term post-surgical and trauma- related pain, and for palliative end-of-life care,” according to the complaint. "Manufacturer Defendants, however, have manufactured, promoted, and marketed opioids for the management of other forms of pain by misleading consumers and medical providers through misrepresentations or omissions regarding the appropriate uses, risks, and safety of opioids.”

The complaint alleges that the defendants “knew that, with prolonged use, the effectiveness of opioids wanes, requiring increases in doses to achieve pain relief and increasing the risk of significant side effects and addiction.”

It also says the increase in opioid use “has been extremely harmful to Indianapolis and Marion County.”

"As a direct and foreseeable consequence of Defendants’ wrongful conduct, Plaintiffs spent millions of dollars each year in efforts to combat the opioid epidemic created by Defendants’ conduct,” according to the filing. "Plaintiffs have incurred and continue to incur costs related to opioid addiction and abuse, including, but not limited to, health care costs, criminal justice and victimization costs, social costs, lost productivity, and lost revenue."

In the suit, the city demands a jury trial, and asks that relief in the case be made in the form of compensation to the city "for past and future costs to abate the ongoing public nuisance caused by the opioid epidemic."

It also asks the drug companies to fund an "abatement fund" for purposes of abating the nuisance, and fund costs for providing medical care, additional therapeutic and prescription drug purchases, and other treatments for patients suffering from opioid-related addiction or disease.

In announcing the suit last month, Mayor Joe Hogsett said opioid addiction took the lives of 345 Marion County residents last year, more than four times the number of traffic-related deaths.

In 2014, Indiana ranked 15th in the nation for the number of deaths due to drug overdose, and Marion County led the state with the highest number of deaths due to drug overdose as well as non-fatal emergency department visits, the city said.

As of Oct. 2, Indianapolis Emergency Medical Services had administered overdose medication naloxone 1,670 times in 2017, on pace to surpass last year’s record-high number of administrations, according to city figures.

Indianapolis is joining a recent landslide of government entities filing similar lawsuits.

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