Elm City sues Pur­due Pharma

Lat­est al­le­ga­tion fol­lows sim­i­lar com­plaints na­tion­wide

New Haven Register (New Haven, CT) - - FRONT PAGE - By Paul Schott

“This plague that has been vis­ited on this city and on count­less other towns and cities and their cit­i­zens must be force­fully de­fended so that lives are saved and fam­i­lies are pro­tected against the heart­break caused by opi­oid ad­dic­tion.” John Rose Jr., cor­po­ra­tion coun­sel for New Haven

Pur­due Pharma was sued Tues­day by New Haven over what the city called de­cep­tive mar­ket­ing, which it says has fu­eled the city’s epi­demic of opi­oid abuse.

The new al­le­ga­tions par­al­lel those in law­suits filed this year by state and lo­cal of­fi­cials around the coun­try, ar­gu­ing Stam­ford-based Pur­due, which makes the top-sell­ing pre­scrip­tion opi­oid OxyCon­tin, and other phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies are largely re­spon­si­ble for the bur­geon­ing num­ber of deaths and es­ca­lat­ing costs from the na­tional opi­oid cri­sis.

New Haven’s com­plaint also names as de­fen­dants the drug man­u­fac­tur­ers Teva Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals, John­son & John­son, Janssen Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals, Endo Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals and In­sys Ther­a­peu­tics, as well as whole­sale dis­trib­u­tors in­clud­ing McKes­son Corp., Amerisource Ber­gen Corp. and Car­di­nal Health.

“This plague that has been vis­ited on this city and on count­less other towns and cities and their cit­i­zens must be force­fully de­fended so that lives are saved and fam­i­lies are pro­tected against

the heart­break caused by opi­oid ad­dic­tion,” John Rose Jr., cor­po­ra­tion coun­sel for New Haven, said in a state­ment.

New Haven Mayor Toni Harp on Tues­day said drug com­pa­nies have been in­creas­ingly “push­ing” the use of opi­oids. Th­ese painkillers can some­times fall in the wrong hands af­ter they’re no longer used by the per­son to whom they were pre­scribed, such as young peo­ple, Harp said.

Harp said join­ing the law­suit is about high­light­ing pushy tac­tics from man­u­fac­tur­ers and hold­ing them ac­count­able for their in­volve­ment in the cri­sis af­fect­ing the state and coun­try.

“We de­cided to sign on to this law­suit be­cause we do be­lieve that, par­tic­u­larly this it­er­a­tion of the opi­oid epi­demic, has more to do with how peo­ple are get­ting their hands on opi­oid phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals that were legally dis­pensed and prob­a­bly over-pre­scribed,” Harp said.

New Haven is home to at least seven methadone clin­ics, which is a med­i­ca­tion used for peo­ple with opi­oid ad­dic­tion. Harp said this means there’s an “added pop­u­la­tion” of pa­tients who seek out treat­ment in the city but can bur­den lo­cal ser­vices.

Harp, who has two daugh­ters who are physi­cians, said the two have worked to­ward lim­it­ing pre­scrib­ing of opi­oids.

“They give their pa­tients the min­i­mum (amount),” Harp said. “But many (doc­tors are) be­ing pushed by the mar­ket­ing (to) put too much in the hands of their pa­tients.”

Pur­due de­nied the al­le­ga­tions and said it is com­mit­ted to tack­ling opi­oid abuse, as it re-is­sued the same state­ment it has made fol­low­ing other law­suits.

“We are deeply trou­bled by the opi­oid cri­sis, and we are ded­i­cated to be­ing part of the so­lu­tion,” the state­ment said. “As a com­pany grounded in science, we must bal­ance pa­tient ac­cess to FDA-ap­proved medicines, while work­ing col­lab­o­ra­tively to solve this public health chal­lenge.”

The law­suit ac­cuses opi­oid mak­ers such as Pur­due of work­ing to de­ceive doc­tors and pa­tients — in­clud­ing groups such as se­nior cit­i­zens and vet­er­ans — about the ad­dic­tive risks of opi­oids and their ap­pro­pri­ate­ness for chronic pain man­age­ment.

The law­suit seeks com­pen­sa­tion for New Haven’s “ex­or­bi­tant” costs for so­cial and hu­man ser­vices and in­creased ex­pen­di­tures for ad­di­tional first-re­spon­der ser­vices to re­spond to grow­ing opi­oid abuse.

With 70 deaths in 2016, New Haven ranked sec­ond in the state in the num­ber who died of opi­oid-re­lated causes, ac­cord­ing to a news re­lease from Scott+Scott, the Con­necti­cut-based law firm that filed the law­suit on the city’s be­half. Statewide, 917 peo­ple died in 2016 of fa­tal drug over­doses, an ap­prox­i­mately 25 per­cent in­crease from the toll in 2015. Most of those cases in­volved opi­oids.

“The phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal in­dus­try is be­hind one of the great­est and most tragic epi­demics fac­ing cities like New Haven,” David Scott, man­ag­ing part­ner of Scott+Scott, said in a state­ment. “Our firm’s roots are in Con­necti­cut, and I could not be more hon­ored to rep­re­sent New Haven as it takes on the in­dus­try on be­half of its com­mu­nity and the fam­i­lies torn apart by the opi­oid epi­demic.”

New Haven’s law­suit fol­lows sim­i­lar lit­i­ga­tion filed in Au­gust against Pur­due and other drug­mak­ers by the city of Water­bury. A num­ber of other nearby mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties, in­clud­ing Bridge­port, agreed to join the com­plaint.

Last week, the states of Alaska and New Jer­sey sued Pur­due. Other re­cent law­suits against Pur­due have been filed by the states of Louisiana, Mis­souri, Ohio, Ok­la­homa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Washington.

Michael Cummo / Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia

Pur­due Pharma

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