Allentown files suit against Big Pharma
Allentown sues over opioids, joining Lehigh County and thousands of other governments trying to recoup costs.
Allentown has joined Lehigh County and more than 2,000 municipalities across the U.S. in suing pharmaceutical companies, holding drugmakers responsible for perpetuating the opioid crisis.
The city filed an eightcount suit Tuesday in federal court against 20 defendants, including Purdue Pharma, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries and McKesson Corp.
Mayor Ray O’Connell said in a statement the manufacturers have made huge profits while city residents have paid high costs battling the deadly epidemic.
“This suit,” O’Connell said, “is a way to battle back.”
Joe Khan, the former U.S. attorney who led the corruption case against former Mayor Ed Pawlowski and others, filed the suit. Khan now is representing multiple state, county and municipal governments in suits against pharmaceutical companies.
It comes one day after an Oklahoma judge ordered pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson to pay $572 million for its culpability in the state’s prescription painkiller epidemic. It’s the first time a trial court has held a drug manufacturer at least partially accountable for the roughly 700,000 drug overdose deaths in the country over the past 20 years, and it could be a landmark precedent as similar cases proceed through courts nationwide.
Oklahoma had sought a judgment of $17 billion, what it says it’ll need to pay for addiction treatment and other services in the next 20 years related to opioid abuse.
Johnson & Johnson, which supplied much of the opiate ingredients drugmakers used for oxycodone and other opioids, was among the eight pharmaceutical companies the Lehigh County district attorney sued in March 2018.
In 2017, Lehigh County recorded a record 200 drugrelated deaths. Last year it fell to about 160, about the same number that died in 2016. City spokesman Mike Moore said at least 72 of the 2017 overdose deaths occurred in Allentown, excluding hospital deaths.
More than 70,000 drug overdose deaths occurred in the United States in 2017, according to the most recent data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 5,500 of those were in Pennsylvania, though that number dropped roughly 23% to about 4,300 last year, according to the state’s opioid data dashboard.
Lehigh County’s case is one of many stalled in a Delaware County court overwhelmed by similar such cases, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Earlier this year, Purdue and Teva settled lawsuits and agreed to pay $270 million and $85 million, respectively.