Is Big Pharma The Target of Litigation Modeled After Tobacco Litigation?
Mark A. York, October 6, 2017
(Mass Tort Nexus) A bipartisan group of states and their attorneys general have started massive joint investigations into the marketing and sales practices of drug companies that manufacture opioid painkillers. These drug makers are the largest in the country and are considered at the center of the current national addiction epidemic. This includes the executive suite and boardrooms of all opiate manufacturers, as the policy and direction for the massive growth in opiate prescriptions could not have gone unnoticed by executives at the opiate drug makers, for close to 15 years. Record earnings, bonuses and SEC filings all point to “boardroom knowledge” of ever increasing opiate focused sales efforts.
Opiate Rx MDL 2804 Parallels State Claims
The state actions are now parallel to the September 25, 2017 filing of a “Motion for Consolidation in “The Opiate Prescription Litigation MDL 2804”, with the Joint Panel for Multidistrict Litigation. MDL 2804, where numerous Midwest counties in Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia as well as the city of Birmingham, Alabama joined together to file suit against the 3 largest distributors of opiates in the country, McKesson Corp., Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen Corporation. Also named in the suit are the primary Big Pharma opiate manufacturers including Purdue Pharma, J&J’s Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Endo, Teva and others as additional defendants.
Attorney Generals from Massachusetts, Tennessee, Texas, Illinois, New Jersey, Missouri and Pennsylvania have launched full investigations, following the lead of Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, who sued five drug manufacturers for misrepresenting the risks of opioids. Other states are also beginning the review of opioid manufacturers and will decide if they are joining the others in filing legal claims.
“We are looking into the role of marketing and how related corporate business practices might have played into increasing prescriptions and use of these powerful and addictive drugs,” District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine, a Democrat, said in a statement.
Its currently unclear exactly how many states are involved in the probe, though officials said a majority of attorneys general are part of the coalition. Among those leading the probe is Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery, a Republican.
Officials did not specify which companies were under investigation, but suffice it to say, any company that made and marketed opioids products over the last 10 years will be scrutinized.
Opioid drugs, including prescription painkillers and heroin, killed more than 33,000 people in the United States in 2015, more than any year on record, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Separate lawsuits by attorneys general in Ohio, Tennessee, New Jersey and Mississippi, are pursuing opioid-related cases as of September 2017, with many more following suit very soon. They are have targeting Purdue Pharma LP, Johnson & Johnson(JNJ.N), Endo International Plc(ENDP.O), Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd (TEVA.TA) and Allergan Plc(AGN.N) as well as leaving the door open to add additional defendants, based on the information revealed in the ongoing multi-state investigations.
New Jersey Files Against Insys Therapeutics
New Jersey recently filed suit against Insys Therapeutics, Inc over marketing scheme for its Fentanyl product known as “Subsys”, and the massive off-label marketing campaign for uses other than FDA approved “cancer pain” treatments. The entire executive board of Insys was indicted in December 2016, along with many of its sales staff and numerous doctors across the country, with at least to physicians being sentenced to 20 years in prison by the US District Court in Alabama. See Insys Therapeutics, Inc Executives Indicted Over Fentanyl Sales Campaign.
Teva in a statement said on Thursday it is “committed to the appropriate promotion and use of opioids.” Representatives for the other companies did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The companies have denied wrongdoing, saying the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved their products as safe and effective and saying that they carried warning labels that disclosed their risks. The specific allegation focus more on “off label” and doctor targeting and marketing practices that repeatedly encouraged over-writing of opiate prescriptions for patients with minimal pain issues.
Ohio Filed First
In announcing his office’s lawsuit in May 2017, Ohio Attorney General DeWine said the drug companies helped unleash the crisis by spending millions of dollars marketing and promoting such drugs as Purdue’s OxyContin, without consideration of the long term effects of the related addiction, which Purdue was absolutely aware of throughout the years of profits that now total billions of dollars.
The lawsuit said the drug companies disseminated misleading statements about the risks and benefits of opioids as part of a marketing scheme aimed at persuading doctors and patients that drugs should be used for chronic rather than short-term pain. Pain centers and medical practices across the country started writing an ever increasing number of high dose opioid prescriptions for what would be considered low to mid-level pain treatment.
Similar lawsuits have been filed by local governments, including those in several California counties, as well as the cities of Chicago, Illinois and Dayton, Ohio, three Tennessee district attorneys, and nine New York counties have also filed individual suits.
It is unknown at this time, if all of the legal actions filed by governmental entities across the country will be consolidated into MDL 2804, which may be the most effective way to manage the soon to be massive number of legal claims against Big Pharma and their long term opiate profit centers. Municipalities across the country seeking to recoup the enormous financial losses brought on by the opioid crisis.