Drug & Device Law

Oregon county sues drugmakers for $250 million over opioids

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Multnomah County, Oregon has filed a $250 million lawsuit against several pharmaceutical companies for allegedly persuading physicians to overprescribe opioids and causing widespread addiction, The Oregonian reports.

The suit, filed in Multnomah County Circuit Court, is one more in a growing nationwide trend of litigation against the makers of opioids, such as OxyContin and Percocet, in a $13-billion slice of the U.S. pharmaceutical industry.

Four states and more than a dozen cities and counties have filed similar suits alleging that the drug companies misrepresented risks and benefits, and caused an addiction crisis, the ABA Journal reported recently.

Multnomah County’s suit names defendants that include Purdue Pharma; Teva Pharmaceutical Industries; Johnson & Johnson; Jannsen Pharmaceuticals Inc.; Watson Pharma; the McKesson Drug Co.; Endo Pharmaceuticals Inc; Actavis Pharma Inc.; Insys Therapeutics Inc.; AmerisourceBergen Drug Corp.; and several Oregon doctors.

Two years ago, Oregon settled with Delaware-based Insys for $1.1 million over claims of deceptive marketing of fentanyl, which is more deadly than heroin and sometimes is used to lace or boost heroin – leading to staggering numbers of overdoses and deaths.

Multnomah County’s suit notes that more than 50 percent of those who have used its needle exchange program say they were hooked on pain pills before moving on to injecting heroin. The county says it spends millions each year dealing with various aspects of the addiction epidemic.

The suit says that “if it does not kill you, long-term use of opioids will cause disability, disease and distress.”

A suit against pharmaceutical companies filed in the District Court of the Cherokee Nation in April noted that 433 Cherokees have died from opiate overdoses in the past 15 years, and that two years ago, 7 million opioid pills were shipped by wholesale distributors to counties that are wholly or partly on tribal land – more than 100 pills for every adult resident, the ABA Journal reported last month.

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