St. Lawrence County joins class action lawsuit against pharmaceutical companies


St. Lawrence County joins class action lawsuit against pharmaceutical companies

CANTON — St. Lawrence County has joined eight other counties in the state in a class-action lawsuit against the major manufacturers of opioid drugs. The action was filed Friday with the county clerk’s office.St. Lawrence County lawmakers previously voted 10-3 in favor of joining the other lawsuits, initially filed individually in state Supreme Court in each county. The actions will now be consolidated in state Supreme Court in Suffolk County and heard by State Supreme Court Justice Jerry Garguilo.Named in the action are Purdue Pharma L.P.; Purdue Pharma Inc.; The Purdue Frederick Co. Inc.; Teva Pharmaceuticals USA Inc.; Cephalon Inc.; Johnson & Johnson; Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc.; Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc.; Janssen Pharmaceutica Inc.; Endo Health Solutions Inc.; Endo Pharmaceuticals Inc.; Insys Therapeutics Inc.; Dr. Russell Portenoy; Dr. Perry Fine; Dr. Scott Fishman; and Dr. Lynn Webster.According to the lawsuit, each year St. Lawrence County spends millions of dollars for the health care, pharmaceutical care and other necessary services and programs for “indigents” and otherwise eligible residents, including payments for prescription opioid painkillers which are manufactured, marketed, promoted, sold, and/or distributed by the named defendants.Legislature Chairman Kevin D. Acres, R-Madrid, cast one of the three dissenting votes, but said Friday he accepts the decision to join the class action.“As the chair, I feel compelled to support the will of the majority,” he said. “We do have tremendous costs in our opioid and heroin crisis in St. Lawrence County that the taxpayers have been picking up, so this will be an effort to retrieve some of that funding to help support the cause: child support, foster care, treatment, both mental and physical, and all of the assorted sociological stuff that goes with it, because families are destroyed by drugs.”The lawsuit identifies opioids as brand-name drugs including OxyContin and Percocet and generics including oxycodone and hydrocodone.“Defendants knew that, barring exceptional circumstances, opioids are too addictive and too debilitating for long-term use for chronic non-cancer pain lasting three months or longer (“chronic pain”),” the lawsuit states. And while the drugs are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the lawsuit accused the defendants of having “manufactured, promoted, and marketed opioids for the management of pain by misleading consumers and medical providers through misrepresentations or omissions regarding the appropriate uses, risks, and safety of opioids.”Although no long-term studies support their assertions, the lawsuit says, the defendants —“in order to expand the market for opioids and realize blockbuster profits” — have “sought to create a false perception of the safety and efficacy of opioids in the minds of medical professionals and members of the public that would encourage the use of opioids for longer periods of time and to treat a wider range of problems, including such common aches and pains as lower back pain, arthritis, and headaches.”The lawsuit claims the defendants accomplished their goal by convincing doctors, patients and others that the benefits of using opioids to treat chronic pain outweighed the risks, and that opioids could be used safely by most patients. The county signed a contract with Simmons, Hanly, Conroy P.C., a law firm that specializes in pharmaceutical class-action litigation, said County Attorney Stephen D. Button. Simmons has filed similar lawsuits in Broome, Dutchess, Erie, Orange, Schenectady, Seneca, Suffolk and Sullivan counties.“St. Lawrence County, like many others across the state, has suffered great losses due to the defendants’ recklessness and negligence about the long-term effects of opioid use,” Mr. Button said Friday afternoon in a news release issued by Simmons.According to the lawsuit, at least 44 St. Lawrence County residents died of opioid overdoses between 2003 and 2014. In 2014, the county saw 177 opioid-related emergency ward admissions, a 108.2 percent increase since 2010, and 828 hospital admissions for the same reason.“There were 645 St. Lawrence County residents admitted into chemical dependence treatment programs in 2016,” Mr. Button wrote. “Additionally, in 2016 officials reported a total of 61 naloxone administration events, though actual numbers of administration events may be higher.”“St. Lawrence County is the latest to join a growing list of New York counties to conclude that drug companies must be held responsible for their fraudulent and deceptive role in causing the worst drug epidemic the country has ever seen,” Simmons shareholder Paul Hanly, lead counsel for the county in this case, said in the release. “The defendants in the case for St. Lawrence County and the other New York counties have long known about the addictive qualities and other risks associated with prolonged use of opioids. They must be held accountable for the misrepresentations and the harms to society they have caused.”The county seeks relief that includes compensatory and punitive damages “for the millions of dollars it spends each year to combat the public nuisance created by the drug companies’ deceptive marketing campaign that misrepresents the safety and efficacy of long-term opioid use,” according to the release.
Source: Watertown Daily Times Latest News
St. Lawrence County joins class action lawsuit against pharmaceutical companies

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