Al­len­town files suit against Big Pharma

The Morning Call - - FRONT PAGE - By An­drew Waga­man Morn­ing Call re­porter An­drew Waga­man can be reached at 610-820-6764 or awaga­[email protected]

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.

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