Photo by Amanda Mills/CDC.
Photo by Amanda Mills/CDC.

A judge has halted a government lawsuit against five of the world’s largest narcotics manufacturers in spite of an impassioned plea by Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas that the companies pay for the damages of a prescription drug epidemic.

The ruling came in response to a suit filed last year by Orange and Santa Clara counties accusing the companies of fraudulently marketing addictive painkillers to undermine the effect of warning labels required by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Los Angeles Times reported Friday. The counties say the efforts boosted sales of the dangerous drugs at the expense of public health, but the companies say the claims are unfounded.

In Thursday’s hearing before Orange County Superior Court Judge Robert J. Moss, the companies asked that the case be dismissed on the grounds that the FDA had exclusive jurisdiction over the matter, according to The Times.

Rackauckas countered that the courts have long played an important role in protecting consumers alongside regulators and said drug addiction was ravaging Orange County, claiming a life nearly every other day, according to the newspaper.

Moss acknowledged the scope of the problem but sided with the drug companies — to a point, The Times reported. He said he would put the case on hold indefinitely to allow the FDA to complete a pending inquiry into the safety and efficacy of painkillers.

He also said he would dismiss the suit as long as the drug makers agreed to allow the counties to revive it, without forfeiting any potential damages, once the FDA completes its work.

Rackauckas said he was disappointed and was considering an appeal.

—City News Service

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