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Blame everyone but the users: AG files against additional opioid manufacturers, distributors

Posted by on Wednesday, September 11th, 2019 @ 5:45 pm.

ILLINOIS – Attorney General Kwame Raoul filed a lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson; Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; Janssen Pharmaceutica, Inc.; Endo Health Solutions Inc.; Endo Pharmaceuticals Inc.; Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Limited; Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc.; Cephalon, Inc.; Allergan Finance, LLC; Actavis Pharma, Inc.; Actavis LLC; Watson Laboratories, Inc.; McKesson Corporation; Cardinal Health, Inc.; and AmerisourceBergen Drug Corporation for their roles in the opioid epidemic.

According to Raoul’s lawsuit, filed in Cook County Circuit Court, the opioid manufacturers carried out unfair and deceptive marketing campaigns that prioritized profits over public health and resulted in unprecedented levels of opioid prescribing, while the distributors irresponsibly flooded Illinois with opioids, failing in their role as gatekeepers in preventing the diversion of opioids. 

“Opioid addiction has destroyed lives and families throughout Illinois,” Raoul said. “These opioid manufacturers and distributors selfishly and irresponsibly sacrificed the health and safety of Illinois residents for their own financial gain. Their actions played a key role in the over-prescription, misuse, abuse, and diversion of dangerous opioids that resulted in an opioid crisis. I will continue to investigate and hold accountable all of those responsible for Illinois’ opioid epidemic.”

Raoul alleged the defendant opioid manufacturers – Johnson & Johnson, Endo, Teva, and Allergan – spent millions of dollars on an unfair and deceptive campaign to shift public perception of opioids, resulting in an increase in opioid prescriptions. According to Raoul, they pushed for the use of more opioids at higher doses and for longer periods of time under the guise of what they characterized as the widespread and problematic under-treatment of pain. The manufacturers also allegedly sought to convince health care providers and patients that opioids were a safe and effective treatment, by minimizing the risk of addiction, touting deceptive concepts like “pseudo addiction,” and making false and unsubstantiated claims about the drugs’ benefits. 

Raoul also alleged the opioid distributors – McKesson, Cardinal, and AmerisourceBergen – contributed to the deadly opioid epidemic by neglecting their responsibility to identify, report and stop suspicious orders. According to Raoul, the distributors flooded Illinois with hundreds of millions of dosage units of opioids with little oversight, fueling the diversion of these drugs towards illegal and harmful uses.

Opioids are often prescribed to treat severe pain, as they reduce the intensity of pain signals reaching the brain; however, they can have serious side effects and are highly addictive. Opioids – such as morphine, hydrocodone, oxycodone, oxymorphone, and methadone – are a class of narcotic drugs that include heroin, some prescription pain relievers, and fentanyl.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), more than 130 Americans die each day from an opioid overdose. According to the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), more than 2,000 Illinoisans were killed by opioid overdoses in 2017. IDPH’s data also shows that between 2011 and 2017, instances of babies born with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), which can occur when a newborn is prenatally exposed to opiates, increased by 64 percent. Babies born with NAS experience a variety of medical complications, including withdrawal symptoms, and often require longer hospital stays after being born.

Raoul’s lawsuit seeks to abate and remedy the statewide public nuisance caused by these companies. Raoul also asks the court to prohibit the manufacturers’ and distributors’ deceptive and unfair conduct in order to ensure it does not happen again in the future, and to hold the companies accountable for the devastation they have caused in Illinois and nationwide. 

The lawsuit is part of Attorney General Raoul’s ongoing efforts to combat the opioid epidemic and hold accountable companies whose deceptive practices have increased opioid prescriptions at the expense of public health. In April, Raoul’s office filed a lawsuit against opioid manufacturer Purdue Pharma for carrying out an aggressive and misleading marketing campaign to increase prescriptions of opioid painkillers as communities throughout Illinois and across the country faced an opioid addiction epidemic. In August, Raoul’s office expanded the lawsuit to include several members of the Sackler family, which founded and owns Purdue Pharma, for their roles in directing and approving the company’s misleading marketing efforts.

Raoul urges anyone who believes they or a loved one may be addicted to opioids to seek help by calling the Illinois Helpline for Opioids and Other Substances at 833-2FINDHELP, which operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Assistant Chief Deputy Attorney General Thomas Verticchio; Division Chief Susan Ellis; Deputy Bureau Chief Judith Parker; Assistant Attorneys General Lauren Barksi, Jennifer Crespo, Darren Kinkead, Andrea Law, and Vivian Sapthavee are handing the case for Raoul’s Consumer Protection Division.

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