Joining the effort to combat the opioid epidemic, Wagstaff & Cartmell has recently been named to represent two Kansas counties and two Missouri counties in suits which allege that pharmaceutical companies aggressively pushed pain killers while falsely representing the dangers of addiction.
Montgomery and Bourbon counties in Kansas, as well as Lafayette and Worth counties in Missouri, have filed federal suits against over a dozen manufacturers and distributors for being in violation of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO).
Bourbon County stated that the goal of its suit is to “to abate the public nuisance caused by rampant and uncontrolled opioid use and addiction, and to recoup taxpayer monies that have been spent because of defendants’ false, deceptive and unfair marketing and/or unlawful diversion and distribution of prescription opioids.”
Companies engaged in Marketing Schemes
The suit further alleges that manufacturers turned to “marketing schemes” to persuade doctors in patients to use opioids for chronic pain, without regard to the ravaging effects of addiction has on patients that has ultimately contributed to a drastic increase in overdose deaths in Kansas since 2013.
Defendants in the suit include Purdue Pharma, alleged to sell as much as $3 billion worth of OxyContin per year, making up about 30 percent of the entire pain killer market. In a similar 2017 lawsuit in Mississippi, Purdue said it was “deeply troubled by the opioid crisis” and pledged to stop marketing opioids to doctors.
Unlawful Conduct Leading to Increased Opiod Usage
The named companies, along with others, are said to have been faced with the impossibility to legally achieve increasing sales ambitions. Racketeering thus became utilized when they failed to “maintain effective controls against diversion of their drugs, to design and operate a system to identify suspicious orders of their drugs, to halt unlawful sales of suspicious orders, and to notify the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) of suspicious orders.”
The plaintiffs have called for a jury trial, stating that “Each (distributor) has been investigated and/or fined by the DEA for the failure to report suspicious orders.” Because of this, the plaintiffs “[have] reason to believe each has engaged in unlawful conduct which resulted in the diversion of prescription opioids into our community.”
While none of the named defendants have yet been served with the latest lawsuit, it is hoped that the coming case will result in these companies being held responsible for their negligent actions, and that genuine efforts to fight the opioid epidemic are seen from these companies, as they have promised to do in the past.