Transfer Motion Filed To Create New Opioid Rx Multidistrict Litigation
By Mark A. York
Mass Tort nexus (September 28, 2017)
A Motion to Transfer and Consolidate the “National Prescription Opiate Litigation”, was filed on September 25, 2017 see “JPML Motion to Consolidate Prescription Opiate Litigation”, with the Joint Panel on Multidistrict Litigation. An MDL number designation has not been assigned as of Thursday the 28th, but the filing and designation are under JPML review. The motion was filed by Hill, Peterson, Carper, Bee & Dietzler, based in Charleston, WV. The filing is the long expected result of the ongoing “Opioid Crisis” which has seemingly overtaken many aspects of day to day life in America, with a particular emphasis on rural America. The many small towns and counties have seen unheard of increases in overdose deaths and 911 calls for drug overdoses, which have depleted budgets and caused ever mounting levels of grief for stricken families as well as tension in government council meetings everywhere, when attempting to address the crisis.
The consolidation filing is followed in the Mass Tort Nexus briefcase, “National Prescription Opiate Litigation MDL”,as the motion directly cites the nation’s three largest wholesalers of opioId drugs, McKesson Corporation, AmerisourceBergen Corporation and Cardinal Health, Inc. as well as naming primary drug makers Purdue Pharma, Teva, Cephalon, Janssen, Endo, Actavis and Mallinckrodt as defendants in certain actions. Opiate drug makers and their executives are now firmly in the sights of not only mass tort lawyers, but facing the full force of criminal investigation by the US Department of Justice in every state, as indictments have already been handed down in several federal venues. The MDL filing contains complaints that specifically reference RICO claims in many of the 66 federal actions cited in the motion, to be transferred into the JPML venue.
STATES HAVE FILED SUIT ALREADY
The pharmaceutical industry already faces dozens of lawsuits brought by cities, counties and states — including Ohio, Missouri and Oklahoma. Some are trying to recoup the costs incurred from the surge in emergency response from spikes in opioid-related overdoses. The strategy is reminiscent of the successful litigation brought by states and municipalities three decades ago against tobacco companies. The common understanding is that the “Opiate Rx Litigation MDL” and related lawsuits across the country, may equal or surpass the tobacco litigation in both scope and financial penalties paid by drug makers.
The opioid drug industry expanded in the 1990s in response to the medical community’s push to better treat pain and chronic pain.
A primary focus is the how and why millions of opioid users became addicted to opioids, or heroin, after being prescribed the medication by doctors and the apparent failure of corporate executives to address the ever mounting evidence in light of the enormous profits, year in and year out.
WARNINGS TO DOCTORS INADEQUATE
Many doctors, in turn, said they were assured by the drugmakers that the opioids were less addictive or even not addictive, which in the civil matters will be a point of very high contention and potentially a focus of US DOJ investigators.
Some states have obtained consent decrees and financial penalties from drug makers, including Illinois, “My investigations have shown that drug companies pressure physicians into prescribing powerful, addictive drugs without regard for the law or patients’ well-being,” said Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who is also party to the new investigation.
Now, many state prosecutors say they will examine whether the industry as a whole, was complicit in creating the epidemic and whether it should now be responsible for helping pay for the damage caused to many communities.
Allergan said it was “working cooperatively” with the attorneys generals on their requests for information. The other companies being investigated did not immediately issue statements, and industry lobbying group PhRMA didn’t respond to a request for comment.
The number of opioid prescriptions has declined in recent years, after federal regulators placed new limits on the drugs. That reduced the amount of opioids prescribed by 18 percent in 2015, from a peak in 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Still, as the state attorneys general and other community leaders note, the slowdown in prescriptions has been offset by greater demand for cheaper alternatives such as heroin, now recognized by medical industry leaders, substance abuse professionals, law enforcement and now mass tort lawyers, as a primary direct result of the massive opioid prescription writing campaign for so many years.
ADDICTIONS STARTED WITH A PRESCRIPTION
“For millions of Americans, their personal battle with opioid addiction did not start in a back alley with a tourniquet and syringe,” industry leaders are stating “They got hooked on medicine they were prescribed for pain or that they found in a medicine cabinet.”
“Governmental entities across the country are now joining together and stating “We are taking this action today because our communities and homes have been broken and families torn apart by this epidemic,” and this known danger was ignored by opioid drug makers, “This epidemic has claimed victims from all walks of life, and both the financial and emotional costs to our citizens.”
Primary allegations include “That the manufacturing companies pushed highly addictive, dangerous opioids, falsely representing to doctors that patients would only rarely succumb to drug addiction, while the distributors breached their legal duties to monitor, detect, investigate, refuse and report suspicious orders of prescription opioid, which is applicable to all afflicted communities across the country.
From the extensive research by Mass Tort Nexus to date, it appears that this is just the tip of the litigation iceberg that will be brought against all levels of opiate pharmaceutical manufacturers and affiliated distributors in the USA. Based on US Dept. of Justice criminal filings, the executive suites and boardrooms are not exempt from indictments and criminal charges, as well as the many doctors, sale and marketing professionals and others who helped facilitate the current opioid crisis, which directly results in related civil and mass tort actions against all involved.