Indy Star on 1/8/2018 by Ryan Martin
Noblesville was among several Indiana cities and counties to legally confront opioid companies this week, joining the likes of Indianapolis, Bloomington, Lafayette and others that already have filed lawsuits or announced intentions to do so.
The rush of new suits came from Greenwood, Fort Wayne, Muncie, Kokomo, Terre Haute, Atlanta, Jennings County and Vigo County.
But the filings won’t stop there. Two attorneys representing many of those cities — Chou-il Lee and Manuel Herceg of Taft Stettinius & Hollister in Indianapolis — said Westfield, Jeffersonville, New Albany, Jackson County and Chandler will be filing suits, too.
According to the Noblesville suit, opioid manufacturers “aggressively pushed highly addictive, dangerous opioids, falsely representing to doctors that patients would only rarely succumb to drug addiction.”
Opioid distributors, according to the suit, “intentionally and/or unlawfully breached their legal duties under federal and state law to monitor, detect, investigate, refuse and report suspicious orders of prescription opiates.”
As a result, Noblesville said it has sustained numerous economic damages, including costs tied to overdoses, law enforcement, and treatment of babies born with opioid-related medical conditions.
The city is seeking damages that would pay for the “past and future costs to abate the ongoing public nuisance caused by the opioid epidemic.”
“The city of Noblesville has joined other Hoosier cities to hold the manufacturers and distributors of highly addictive opioids responsible for the crisis that our public safety departments are struggling to cope with,” said Robert Herrington, city spokesman, in a statement. “Noblesville has filed a federal lawsuit — at no cost to taxpayers — to seek damages that would pay for the rising costs of battling the opioid epidemic that is now the leading cause of death for people under the age of 50.”
In Hamilton County, the rate of non-fatal emergency room visits caused by opioid overdoses nearly doubled over 2011-15, according to the suit. And in 2014-15, the rate of chronic hepatitis C cases jumped by more than 35 percent.
“This incredible harm to not just the victims of opioid addiction, but the communities in which those individuals live, stems directly from the defendants’ intentional choice to pump opioids into” the Noblesville community, the suit says.
Pharmaceutical companies Purdue Pharma, Teva, Janssen, Endo and Mallinckrodt were among the named defendants in the lawsuit. The named drug distributors included AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson Corp.
Companies denied wrongdoing in written statements released to IndyStar shortly after some of the earlier lawsuits were filed.
“We are deeply troubled by the opioid crisis, and we are dedicated to being part of the solution,” Purdue Pharma said. “We vigorously deny these allegations and look forward to the opportunity to present our defense.”
Healthcare Distribution Alliance, which represents the three distribution companies, said distributors are not to blame.
“We don’t make medicines, market medicines, prescribe medicines or dispense them to consumers,” Senior Vice President John Parker said. “Given our role, the idea that distributors are solely responsible for the number of opioid prescriptions written defies common sense and lacks understanding of how the pharmaceutical supply chain actually works and how it is regulated.”
Most of the new suits share the same attorneys and were filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana. Fort Wayne’s suit was filed in federal court in Northern Indiana.
Four of the lawsuits — Fort Wayne, Atlanta, Muncie and Terre Haute — name only the three distributors.
Lee and Herceg, the attorneys, said they expect some of these suits to eventually include manufacturers, too.
Indianapolis’ lawsuit, filed Nov. 14, targeted the same companies named by Noblesville. Indianapolis and Jennings County are represented by the same attorney, according to court records.