Oakland, Wayne sue drug makers over opioid crisis
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