Cases of Note
From time to time, the Department of Law will add to this section with notable cases in which the public may have an interest.
The City of Baltimore, acting through the City Law Department and the nationally prominent firm of Sussman Godfrey LLP, has today filed a comprehensive 105-page lawsuit against manufacturers, distributors and others who are alleged to be responsible for numerous injuries and damages to the City caused by fraudulent and reckless marketing of opioids.
Growing national attention has been paid to the devastating cycle of dependence, addiction, overdose, and death stemming from the flood of legal prescription opioid painkillers into communities throughout the country.
The lawsuit alleges that major manufacturers of those prescription drugs precipitated the current epidemic by spending billions to market their products not for what they really were—dangerous, addictive, and potentially deadly narcotic painkillers meant for short-term use to treat acute pain—but rather as safe, effective pain relievers that could be taken in perpetuity with little to no risk of addiction.
The lawsuit alleges that drug manufacturers led by Purdue Pharma sent sales representatives directly to doctors to spread these lies, paid well-known doctors to parrot the manufacturers’ misrepresentations, and co-opted purportedly independent medical associations to disseminate the lies to the public and throughout the medical community.
The lawsuit alleges that the result of Big Pharma’s misinformation campaign was that prescribers started writing more prescriptions, for more pills, for more patients. Hundreds of thousands of patients in pain took those pills and, through no fault of their own, became dependent on and addicted to them.For many, the availability and expense of the manufacturers’ forced them to seek illegal opioids in the form of heroin or prescription pills sold on the streets. 8 out of 10 new heroin users begins by abusing prescription opioids.
The impact of this epidemic can be felt throughout our City. Hundreds of our citizens continue to die every year of opioid overdoses, in fact more people die of opioid overdose than from homicide in Baltimore each year.Tens of thousands more suffer from the effects of opioid use disorders, including struggling to hold jobs, maintain homes, and be stable parents. They are likely to suffer from additional health problems, including the risk of non-fatal overdoses, and may turn to crime to finance their addictions.
Our City, through the leadership of Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen, has been working for years to curb the tide of addiction and abuse and to help those with opioid use disorders find effective treatment in myriad ways:
distribution of naloxone, the life-saving antidote that reverse the effects of an opioid overdose; training paramedics, fire department, and police officers to carry and use naloxone; developing diversion programs to help those whose addictions cause them to engage in petty crime seek treatment; developing a Stabilization Center to provide emergency and long-term treatment for individuals with opioid use disorders, and in other ways
The BPD continues to be required to invest significant resources in combating gangs and gang violence associated with the heroin trade—the market for which Big Pharma has fueled and expanded, as people with opioid use disorders turn to heroin when they lose access to prescription opioids.
In today’s lawsuit, the City seeks to force the manufacturers and distributors of these opioids to assist us in our efforts abate the effects of this epidemic. These corporations were the root cause of the opioid epidemic and enabled and encouraged the escalation of this public health crisis. So far, they have refused to take responsibility for the harm they have caused—to the contrary, they’ve continued to profit off of the epidemic that has cost our community and communities across the country so much. The City seeks to force these companies to take responsibility for their false and misleading promotion of addictive prescription painkillers and their failure to report orders of drugs that they knew or should have known were not being used legitimately; and to make significant contributions to the City’s efforts to remedy the harm they caused.
Click HERE to view the full Complaint