Metro files lawsuit against prescription opioid manufacturers

(l-r) Lead Attorney Mark Chalos of  Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP; Co-Counsel Andre Johnson of Manson Johnson Conner, PLLC, and Co-Counsel Isaac Conner of Manson Johnson Conner, PLLC.

(l-r) Lead Attorney Mark Chalos of Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP; Co-Counsel Andre Johnson of Manson Johnson Conner, PLLC, and Co-Counsel Isaac Conner of Manson Johnson Conner, PLLC.

The Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County has filed a lawsuit against the manufacturers and distributors of prescription opioid drugs to recover taxpayer money and resources spent to combat the opioid catastrophe wreaking havoc on the Nashville community.

Earlier this year, the lawsuit was delayed while minority caucus members ensured that there would be diversity in the law firms representing the city.

Opioid drugs kill over 100 Americans every day of the year, costing nearly $80 billion per year in lost productivity and increased social services, as well as for costs of treatment for drug abuse and addiction and for the unnecessary and harmful opioid prescriptions themselves. Accidental drug overdose deaths, of which at least two-thirds are opioid-related over-doses, are the leading cause of death for Americans under the age of 50.

The complaint alleges that the defendants “systematically and repeatedly disregarded the safety of their customers and the public” through their misleading promotion and over-supplying of opioids into our communities. Charged by law to monitor and to report dangerous behavior, defendants failed to do so in favor of maximizing corporate profits and increasing their market share.

“Our city has been devastated by opioid addiction and all its related harms,” said lead attorney, Mark P. Chalos of the national plaintiffs’ law firm Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP. “What we have seen in Nashville and throughout our region, is millions of pills being sold in communities where there aren’t millions of people. It is time the opioid manufacturers and distributors are held accountable for their wrongful conduct that has destroyed families and cost untold millions of taxpayer dollars in Nashville, across Tennessee, and throughout the U.S.”

Nashville law firm Manson Johnson Conner PLLC is co-counsel on the case.

The complaint further alleges that defendants’ marketing schemes (and not any medical breakthrough) rationalized prescribing opioids for chronic pain and opened the flood-gates for opioid use and abuse. “Defendants falsely and misleadingly: 1) downplayed the serious risk of addiction; 2) promoted the concept of ‘pseudo addiction’ and advocated that the signs of addiction should be treated with more opioids; 3) exaggerated the effectiveness of screening tools in preventing addiction; 4) claimed that opioid dependence and withdrawal are easily managed; 5) denied the risks of higher opioid dosages; and 6) exaggerated the effectiveness of ‘abuse-deterrent’ opioid formulations to prevent abuse and addiction. Conversely, defendants also falsely touted the benefits of long-term opioid use, including the supposed ability of opioids to improve function and quality of life, even though there was no good scientific evidence to support Defendants’ claims.”

The complaint also asserts that “Defendants’ efforts were wildly successful. Opioids are now the most prescribed class of drugs.

They generated $11 billion in revenue for drug companies in 2014 alone. In an open letter to the nation’s physicians in August 2016, the then-U.S. Surgeon General expressly connected this ‘urgent health crisis’ to ‘heavy marketing of opioids to doctors . . . many of [whom] were even taught, incorrectly, that opioids are not addictive when prescribed for legitimate pain.’”

As the complaint additionally notes, “Defendants in this lawsuit caused the epidemic. Defendants violated the law by falsely promoting highly addictive opioids as safe and necessary, while concealing the true risks of the drugs. Defendants also conspired to manufacture and distribute millions of doses of highly addictive opioids, knowing that they were being trafficked and used for illicit purposes, and recklessly disregarded their devastating effect on the taxpayers and government of Nashville. As a result of the conspiracy, Nashville taxpayers have spent tens of millions of dollars and countless resources to fight the opioid crisis and deal with its effects on their community.”

The lawsuit is filed against a number of large opioid manufacturers and distributors including Purdue Pharma, Cephalon Inc., Teva Pharmaceuticals, Johnson & Johnson, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Noramco, Endo Health Solutions, Mallinckrodt Plc, Allergan PLC, Watson Pharmaceuticals, Watson Laboratories, Actavis LLC, Insys Therapeutics, AmerisourceBergen Drug Corporation, Cardinal Health, Inc., and McKesson Corporation and related entities.