City of Hopewell sues drug companies over opioid epidemic

HOPEWELL, Va. — The City of Hopewell has filed a lawsuit against a number of drug manufacturers, distributors, and pharmacies connected to the opioid epidemic.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday, June 11, alleges that the companies participated in “false, deceptive and unfair” marketing of prescription opioids and contributed to the opioid crisis by failing to stop suspicious orders of opioids.

Virginia-based law firm Marks & Harrison is representing Hopewell in partnership with Weitz & Luxenberg in New York City.

The law firm tells CBS 6 that the Hopewell lawsuit is part of a multimillion-dollar litigation against drug companies which includes more than 2,000 localities across the country.

Attorneys say the lawsuit is seeking to minimize or eliminate the imminent threat to public health and safety and recoup city costs for responding to opioid addictions and overdoses.

The civil suit, filed at the U.S. Northern District Court of Ohio, cites a loss of tax revenue and increased costs for the Hopewell’s emergency responders, law enforcement officials and medical professional employees due to opioid abuse.

“We know that manufacturers, distributors, and retailers did not follow federal regulations and created an opioid epidemic that wreaked havoc on countless Americans, including the Hopewell community,” said Marks & Harrison attorney said Lee J. Bujakowski.

Attorneys say there is no specific dollar amount attached to the suit at this time as the damage incurred by Hopewell is still developing.

In 2016, the opioid crisis was declared a Public Health Emergency in Virginia. In 2017, there were 1,241 drug-overdose deaths involving opioids in Virginia, according to federal data.

Hopewell joins approximately 40 other Virginia localities seeking compensation related to opioid abuse. Earlier this year, Dinwiddie County filled a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against Big Pharma over the opioid epidemic.

In the most recent lawsuit, Hopewell names more than 55 entities related to the manufacturing, promotion, distribution, and sale of opioids in the city.

“This lawsuit is one of the many ways the city of Hopewell is fighting to protect its residents from the dangers of opioid abuse,” Bujakowski added.

The lawsuit is part of multidistrict litigation that consolidates complex cases managed by one court.

The Healthcare Distribution Alliance (HDA), the national trade association representing distributors, send CBS 6 a statement. In that statement, John Parker, senior vice president of communications at HAD, said there are some misperceptions about role of drug distributors.

“The misuse and abuse of prescription opioids is a complex public health challenge that requires a collaborative and systemic response that engages all stakeholders. It’s also critical to understand the role of each stakeholder across the supply chain. Distributors do not conduct research, manufacture, market, or prescribe medications, nor do they influence prescribing patterns, the demand for specific products, or patient-benefit designs. The idea that distributors are responsible for the number of opioid prescriptions written defies common sense and lacks understanding of how the pharmaceutical supply chain actually works and is regulated. Those bringing lawsuits would be better served addressing the root causes, rather than trying to redirect blame through litigation.”

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