On Tuesday, Dec. 26, it was learned that the Illinois Counties of DuPage, Kane, Will, and McHenry are filing lawsuits against some of the nation’s largest pharmaceutical companies and physicians over the aggressive and fraudulent marketing of prescription opioid painkillers. This drug epidemic is being fought by countless Illinois families and has led to thousands of overdoses and hundreds of deaths in 2017 alone.

In addition, Lake County, has joined the coalition of counties and filed a similar lawsuit against the pharmaceutical companies.

In the complaints filed in Illinois State Court, the four counties seek relief including compensatory and punitive damages for the millions of dollars they spend each year to combat drug-related crimes and the public nuisance created by the drug companies’ deceptive marketing campaigns. In addition to monetary damages, the counties are seeking to enjoin the defendants and prohibit them from what the complaints call “their continued unfair and deceptive acts and practices.”

“Opioid abuse has grown at such an alarming rate the past few years that we can no longer sit idly by while community after community and family after family is ravaged by this indiscriminate killer,” DuPage County State’s Attorney Berlin said. “It is our sincerest hope that the lawsuits filed this morning will not only prevent more deaths, but will also begin the healing process and allow DuPage County to recoup a portion of the losses incurred fighting this deadly epidemic.”

The defendants in the lawsuits for DuPage County, Kane County, Will County, and McHenry County are: Purdue Pharma L.P.; Purdue Pharma, Inc.; The Purdue Frederick Company, Inc.; Abbott Laboratories; Abbott Laboratories, Inc.; Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc.; Cephalon, Inc.; Johnson & Johnson; Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; Janssen Pharmaceutica, Inc.; Endo Health Solutions Inc.; Endo Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; Dr. Perry Fine; Dr. Scott Fishman; and Dr. Lynn Webster.

According to data from the Illinois Department of Public Health, opioids contributed to nearly 1,200 overdose deaths in Illinois in 2016. The Illinois Department of Public Health reports that more Illinoisans died from an opioid-related drug overdose (due to heroin and prescription opioid pain relievers) in 2014 than from homicide or motor vehicle accidents.  Illinois is one of 14 states that has seen an 8.3 percent increase in overdose deaths.

Apart from the toll on human life, the crisis has financially strained the services the counties provide its residents and employees. Human services, social services, court services, law enforcement services, the office of the coroner/medical examiner and health services, including hospital, emergency and ambulatory services, have all been severely impacted by the crisis. For example, as a direct and foreseeable consequence of the defendants’ egregious conduct, the counties have paid, and continue to pay, millions of dollars for health care costs stemming from prescription opioid dependency.

The lawsuit alleges the defendants sought to create a false perception in the minds of physicians, patients, health care providers and health care payers that using opioids to treat chronic pain was safe for most patients and that the drugs’ benefits outweighed the risks. This was allegedly perpetrated through a promotion and marketing campaign that began in the late 1990s, became more aggressive around 2006, and is ongoing. Specifically, the complaints detail how the defendants allegedly poured significant financial resources into generating articles, continuing medical education courses and other materials, conducting sales visits to doctors, and supporting a network of professional societies and advocacy groups – all of which were successful in the intended purpose of creating a “consensus” supporting the long-term

 

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