San Jose Sues CVS, Walgreens and Other Drug Distributors, Manufacturers Over Opioids
Source: East Bay Times
San Jose has joined cities across the country in calling out the makers and sellers of prescription painkillers like OxyContin and Percocet for furthering the nation’s opioid epidemic.
Last week, the nation’s 10th largest city filed a civil lawsuit in U.S. District Court in San Jose against manufacturers such as Purdue Pharma and Johnson & Johnson and distributors including CVS and Walgreens for helping turn thousands of local residents into drug addicts.
“The manufacturers aggressively pushed highly addictive, dangerous opioids, falsely representing to doctors that patients would only rarely succumb to drug addiction,” reads the suit, which also accuses sellers like CVS of failing to effectively monitor and report suspicious orders of prescription opioids.
Walgreens declined to comment on the pending litigation. CVS did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“Purdue Pharma vigorously denies the allegations in the lawsuits filed against the company and will continue to defend itself against these misleading attacks,” the company said in a statement. “We believe that no pharmaceutical manufacturer has done more to address the opioid addiction crisis than Purdue, and since 2000, we have pursued more than 60 different initiatives in collaboration with governments and law enforcement agencies on this difficult social issue.”
While many of the companies named have denied wrongdoing, some 2,000 states, local governments and Native American tribes have filed similar lawsuits. More than 1,000 cases have been consolidated for the federal “multidistrict litigation” in Ohio, one of the states hit hardest by the opioid crisis. San Jose is joining that litigation.
According to the lawsuit, more people die from drug overdoses in California each year than in any other state. In 2016, more than 1,900 Californians died from prescription opioids. One reason, the suit alleges, is that opioids are frequently prescribed in the state — 23.6 million times in 2016 alone.
In Santa Clara County alone, more than 650,000 prescriptions for opioids were written in 2017, and 70 people died from opioids that same year. In 2016, 78 people died. And, the suit says, there was a 126 percent increase in the number of heroin poisonings — 19 to 43 — between 2011 and 2015.
“The epidemic has become so significant that Santa Clara County has begun distributing naloxone kits, free of charge, at local methadone clinics, along with one-hour training sessions,” the suit says.
In the filing, San Jose asks, among other things, for an “abatement fund” to help end the opioid crisis.
“Obviously for people and families dealing with opioid addiction, it can be heartbreaking and extremely difficult to try to break that addiction,” said Assistant City Attorney Nora Frimann. “And to the extent that the city is providing services and trying to help those people and those families, we think it’s important to step up and join the chorus that it’s a real problem.”
While declining to provide specifics because of confidentiality reasons, Frimann said the city itself has workers who have had issues with opioids while recovering from work-related injuries.
“I think that’s true for a whole lot of places,” Frimann said.
In San Jose, opioid addiction has contributed in some cases to homelessness, requiring police and paramedic resources, she added.
Purdue Pharma, which makes OxyContin, recently asked a judge in Massachusetts to dismiss a lawsuit against the company in that state. In a few instances the company has gotten suits dismissed. But earlier this year, Purdue and the Sackler family agreed to a $270 million settlement in a case in Oklahoma. The timing for when the Ohio litigation will wrap up is unclear.