Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer announced Thursday that his office has filed a federal lawsuit against nine opioid drug companies, alleging their illegal business practices have contributed to drug addiction problems in the city.
By filing the lawsuit, Feuer said the city was looking to join multi-district litigation occurring in a federal court in Ohio, where the lawsuits of hundreds of cities, counties and Native American tribes against some opioid manufacturers have been consolidated in the court of Judge Dan Aaron Polster of the Northern District of Ohio.
“It’s very heartening that (the) judge has been quoted as saying,`I want to find solutions here in this court,”’ Feuer said during a news conference at City Hall East with Mayor Eric Garcetti. “And having Los Angeles at that table, at this pivotal moment in the litigation, is crucial.”
In Los Angeles County, with a population of about 10 million people, there were 4.6 million prescriptions for opioids written and 353 opioid related deaths in 2016, Feuer’s office said.
Opioids were involved in 42,249 deaths in 2016 nationwide, according to the Center for Disease Control, and opioid overdose deaths were five times higher in 2016 than 1999, although the problem is less pronounced in Los Angeles and in California than in some other parts of the country. For example, California and its population of roughly 39.5 million people had 4,654 opioid related deaths in 2016, while Ohio, with 11.6 million people, had 4,329, according to the CDC.
“I will not let Los Angeles become the next West Virginia or Ohio when it comes to the devastating effects of the opioid crisis,” Feuer said. “That’s why we’re here suing, joining with jurisdictions across the United States. We’re seeking to put an end to deceptive marketing and advertising.”
The lawsuit alleges the nine companies intentionally misled doctors and patients about the appropriate uses, risks, safety and efficacy of the drugs, including downplaying the risk of addiction and exaggerating the benefits of their use for chronic pain. The lawsuit also alleges the companies routinely failed in their obligation to report suspicious orders and sales of large and frequent orders of pills, as required by state and federal law.
“This war has claimed too many casualties, in too many families, in too many neighborhoods, in too many communities, and today we stand together with American cities and other jurisdictions that are asking for justice for those families that have lost their loved ones or who are battling right now,” Garcetti said.
The lawsuit names opioid drug manufacturing companies iPurdue Pharma L.P., Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc., Endo Pharmaceuticals Inc., Cephalon, Inc., Insys Therapeutics, Inc., and Mallinckrodt LLC alleging the companies used false and deceptive business practices.
Also included in the lawsuit are major opioid drug wholesalers including McKesson Corporation, Cardinal Health, Inc., and AmerisourceBergen Corporation.
All the opioid defendants before Polster’s court argued the drugs were approved by the Food and Drug Administration and prescribed by doctors, according to The New York Times.