Lackawanna County to lead path in suing pharmaceutical companies over opioid crisis
Flanked by law enforcement, county officials and victims of the opioid crisis plaguing the region, Commissioner Patrick O’Malley made a bold statement today: “It’s Lackawanna County versus the pharmaceutical companies.”
O’Malley made the remarks at a press conference announcing the county’s intent to sue 14 pharmaceutical companies for what it sees as their role in fueling the opioid crisis that claimed the lives of 231 county residents between 2014 and August of 2017. The move would make Lackawanna County the first county in the state to file such a suit, O’Malley said.
New York-based law firm Marc J. Bern & Partners LLP will represent the county in the impending legal battle at no cost, but will receive 25 percent of whatever money the suit nets. Local attorney Todd O’Malley will serve as co-counsel.
Pharmaceutical companies the county plans to sue include: Purdue Pharma L.P.; Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc.; Cephalon, Inc.; Johnson & Johnson; Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; Orho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; Endo Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; Allergan PLC; Actavis, Inc.; Watson Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; Endo Health Solutions, Inc.; McKesson Corporation; Cardinal Health, Inc.; and AmerisourceBergen Corporation.
Attorney Joseph Cappelli, a senior partner with the law firm representing the county, said they intent to file the suit at the Lackawanna County Courthouse in the coming weeks. A forensic audit will be conducted to determine the amount the county will seek in damages, but it will likely be multiple millions of dollars, Cappelli said.
As for the basis of the suit, county officials contend the pharmaceutical companies that produce opioid painkillers misrepresented the addictive nature of the drugs when marketing them in the 1990s.
“They lied about how addictive the medication actually was,” Commissioner Laureen Cummings said, arguing that disingenuous Big Pharma marketing campaigns pushed the false idea that patients weren’t being treated well enough in terms of pain management.
The suit will also allege the pharmaceutical companies misrepresented the affects of the drugs to the doctors and medical professionals that prescribed them.
“The problem is that the ones that are giving the doctors and nurses the information about the drug is the drug manufacturers,” Cappelli said. “We believe that the testimony that we’ll be able to elicit in this case will show that … that information was at best slanted, and at worst it was very misleading.”