Wayne, Oakland counties sue drug companies for opioid epidemic

Posted at 1:38 PM, Oct 12, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-12 14:11:21-04

Wayne County Executive Warren Evans and Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson announced a joint lawsuit against multiple drug manufacturers and distributors alleging the deceptive marketing and sale of opioids.

The lawsuit, the first of its kind filed in Michigan, comes as opioid-related deaths continue to climb. 

"This is a full-blown health crisis from which the drug companies made billions," Evans said. "People are dying and lives are being ruined by addiction as this horrible tragedy unfolds. We see the devastation every day in our hospitals, in our jails and at the morgue, and it's getting worse." 

"There has to be a price to be paid when corporations show such disregard for human life."

The lawsuit alleges that one of the main drivers of the opioid epidemic is drug manufacturers' deceptive marketing and sale of opioids to treat chronic pain, including a strategy to shift the way in which doctors and patients think about pain and to encouraged widespread prescribing and use of opioids.

The defendants in the case are Purdue Pharma, L.P., Cephalon, Inc., Endo International, PLC, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, Ltd., Teva Pharmaceuticals, USA, Inc., Insys Therapeutics, Inc., AmerisourceBergen Corporation, Cardinal Health, Inc., McKesson Corporation, Mallinckrodt PLC and Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals.

The complaint alleges that defendants intentionally misled doctors and patients about the appropriate uses, risks, safety and efficacy of prescription opioids while downplaying risks of addiction.

"The opioid industry has taken a page out of big tobacco's playbook," Patterson said. "They utilized misleading information, marketing campaigns and studies to convince the public that their product was safe. They put profits over people and now people are paying the price, some with their lives."

In 2016, opioid related deaths in Wayne County totaled 817, a 61 percent increase. Opioid related deaths in Oakland County increased 267 percent from 2009 to 2015.

"There was a concerted and tragically successful effort to get more doctors to prescribe these drugs while distorting the conversation about addiction," said Lead Counsel E. Powell Miller of the Miller Law Firm, which is representing Wayne and Oakland Counties

"As communities like Oakland and Wayne County continue to shoulder the burder of this epidemic, justice demands that the companies responsible pay for the tragedy they've created."