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Los Angeles becomes latest US city to sue pharma over opioid crisis

Published on 04/05/18 at 09:44am
Image Credit: US Air Force, Valerie Monroy

The city of Los Angeles has levied legal action against a number of pharmaceutical firms for their role in advancing the ongoing US opioid crisis, with the filing accusing them of “borrowing from the tobacco industry’s playbook”.

The iconic Californian city has followed in the footsteps of New York City, which back in January launched a $500 million lawsuit against a slew of major industry names including Teva, Johnson & Johnson, Janssen, Allergan, Purdue Pharma and  Endo Health Solutions. Hundreds of municipalities across the US have moved in similar directions, while a federal judge in Ohio has consolidated 250 cases of legal action from a number of cities, counties and states, with the intention of reaching a global settlement.

Mike Feuer, the city attorney who filed the lawsuit, said in statement: “Manufacturers and distributors of these highly addictive and potentially fatal drugs must be held accountable for driving the opioid epidemic and the significant impacts of their reckless and irresponsible business practices.” More people died in the city as a result of opioids than homicides last year.

Nine drug firms were targeted by the action, including six of the largest manufacturers of prescription painkillers and six of the most prominent distributors, specifically accusing them of negligence, misrepresentation and creating public nuisance. Named in the lawsuit are Janssen, Purdue, Endo, Cephalon, Insys and Mallinckrodt.

The action also accuses them of violating anti-racketeering laws, arguing that clinicians are encouraged to prescribe potent painkillers for chronic conditions while downplaying the risks.

The Healthcare Distribution Alliance has defended the three distributors named in the suit, claiming they are not to blame for the state of the crisis in the city, while Mallinckrodt and Cephalon owner Teva have argued that they have also been wrongfully blamed, and that they are committed to the responsible use of opioid medications.

Matt Fellows

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