Oakland, Wayne sue drug mak­ers over opi­oid cri­sis

The Detroit News - - Front Page - BY CHARLES E. RAMIREZ The Detroit News

Detroit — Oakland and Wayne coun­ties are su­ing sev­eral phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal mak­ers over what they call “de­cep­tive mar­ket­ing prac­tices” amid a ris­ing num­ber of opi­oid deaths, of­fi­cials said Thurs­day.

Oakland County Ex­ec­u­tive L. Brooks Pat­ter­son and Wayne County Ex­ec­u­tive War­ren Evans an­nounced a joint fed­eral law­suit against drug mak­ers at a news con­fer­ence at the Guardian Build­ing in down­town Detroit.

“The opi­oid in­dus­try has taken a page out of big tobacco’s play­book,” Pat­ter­son said Thurs­day in a state­ment. “They uti­lized mis­lead­ing in­for­ma­tion, mar­ket­ing cam­paigns, and stud­ies to con­vince the pub­lic that their prod­uct was safe. They put prof­its over peo­ple and now peo­ple are pay­ing the price, some with their lives.”

Their suit, filed Thurs­day in U.S. District Court in Detroit, al­leges sev­eral drug mak­ers in­ten­tion­ally mis­led doc­tors and pa­tients about their prod­ucts’ ap­pro­pri­ate uses, risks and safety while down­play­ing the risks of ad­dic­tion.



have sky­rock­eted across the na­tion and in Wayne and Oakland coun­ties. Wayne County deaths rose 61 per­cent in 2016 from 506 to 817. In Oakland County, they’ve in­creased 267 per­cent from nine deaths in 2009 to 33 deaths in 2015. Ma­comb County had 86 opi­oid-re­lated deaths in 2015, a 60 per­cent jump from 2014’s 50 deaths.

Statewide, the num­ber of opi­oid-re­lated deaths also are on an up­swing.

“This is a full-blown health cri­sis from which the drug com­pa­nies made bil­lions,” Evans said in a state­ment. “Peo­ple are dy­ing and lives are be­ing ru­ined by ad­dic­tion as this hor­ri­ble tragedy un­folds. We see the dev­as­ta­tion ev­ery day in our hospi­tals, in our jails, and at the morgue, and it’s get­ting worse. There has to be a price paid when cor­po­ra­tions show such dis­re­gard for hu­man life.”

Rochester-based Miller Law Firm PC and Rob­bins, Geller, Rudman and Dowd LLP are rep­re­sent­ing Oakland and Wayne coun­ties in the suit.

The law­suit seeks to stop drug com­pa­nies from mak­ing fur­ther false or mis­lead­ing state­ments about opi­oids and stop them from not re­port­ing sus­pi­cious drug or­ders. It also seeks le­gal costs and dam­ages.

“There was a con­certed and trag­i­cally suc­cess­ful ef­fort to get more doc­tors to pre­scribe th­ese drugs while dis­tort­ing the con­ver­sa­tion about ad­dic­tion,” said E. Pow­ell Miller, lead coun­sel for the coun­ties, in a state­ment. “As com­mu­ni­ties like Oakland and Wayne County con­tinue to shoul­der the bur­den of this epi­demic, jus­tice de­mands that the com­pa­nies re­spon­si­ble pay for the tragedy they’ve cre­ated.”

County of­fi­cials de­clined to com­ment on how much each county was pay­ing the law firms rep­re­sent­ing them, but Miller said the end-game is to have the drug mak­ers foot the bill af­ter his clients win in court.

Rep­re­sen­ta­tives from Ma­comb County were ab­sent at Thurs­day’s news con­fer­ence and its name is not among the law­suit’s plain­tiffs.

Evans said he didn’t think any­one asked Ma­comb County Ex­ec­u­tive Mark Hackel if the county wanted to join the law­suit, but the county is wel­come to do so.

“There’s still plenty of time for

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