Towns sue pharmaceutical companies over opioid abuse

Bridgeport, Fairfield, Milford and Shelton are among 18 towns that together have filed a lawsuit against pharmaceutical companies, blaming opioid abuse on “aggressive and fraudulent marketing” of painkillers.

The action, filed in the Connecticut Superior Court in the Judicial District of Waterbury, also includes the towns of Naugatuck, Southbury, Woodbury, Beacon Falls, Oxford, West Haven, North Haven, Thomaston, Torrington, Bristol, East Hartford, Southington, Newtown and Tolland.

The municipalities seek “compensatory and punitive damages for the millions of dollars they spend each year to combat the public nuisance created by the drug companies’ deceptive marketing campaign that misrepresents the safety and efficacy of long-term opioid use,” according to a press release from the law firms Drubner Hartley & Hellman and Simmons Hanly Conroy.

The defendants in the lawsuit are Purdue Pharma L.P.; Purdue Pharma Inc.; The Purdue Frederick Company Inc.; Teva Pharmaceuticals USA Inc.; Cephalon Inc.; Johnson & Johnson; Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc.; Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc.; Janssen Pharmaceutica Inc.; Endo Health Solutions Inc.; Endo Pharmaceuticals Inc.; Dr. Perry Fine; Dr. Scott Fishman; and Dr. Lynn Webster.

This filing follows similar action filed by Drubner Hartley & Hellman and Simmons Hanly Conroy last year on behalf of the City of Waterbury against pharmaceutical manufacturers to address the opioid crisis.

“The defendants have profited significantly as a result of their self-serving marketing, with opioid prescription rates increasing fourfold since 1999,” said James Hartley, partner in Drubner Hartley & Hellman. “The large number of both large and small Connecticut municipalities that have joined together in this complaint underscores the significant detrimental impact that rising opioid-related deaths, opioid addiction rates and the costs associated with the opioid crisis has had on the State. Big Pharma has to be held accountable for its role in this horrendous opioid epidemic.”

“We are proud to stand with Drubner Hartley & Hellman as they seek justice for these municipalities,” said Simmons Hanly Conroy Shareholder Paul Hanly, lead co-counsel in the case. “This is an important step toward holding accountable those who have destroyed their communities. Together, we will work to ensure that all Connecticut residents across the state get justice.”

On Jan. 4, Hanly was appointed by a federal judge to be co-lead counsel overseeing all the federal litigation brought against pharmaceutical companies and physicians involved in the marketing of prescription opioid painkillers. Hanly, with experience in litigation against opioid manufacturers going back more than a decade, will work with his co-lead counsels to manage the federal lawsuits brought by nearly 100 other law firms representing plaintiffs in more than 200 docketed opioid cases.

The complaint alleges that increased misuse of opioids as a result of the defendants’ conduct has led to significant increases in the number of opioid-related emergency room visits, hospital stays, and deaths in Connecticut. Between 2012 and 2017, Connecticut rose from ranking 50th in drug overdose deaths to 12th in the nation.

In 2016 alone, there were 917 accidental drug overdose deaths in Connecticut, a majority of which were opioid-related, according to the law firms. This represents an increase of more than 250 percent over the number of drug overdoses that took place in Connecticut in 2012. The suit also contends that over the last several years, law enforcement and first responders in the municipalities filing the action have administered Naloxone, a medication used to block the effect of opioids, especially in overdose, hundreds of times.

Apart from the toll on human life, the crisis has financially strained the services the municipalities provide its residents and employees. The complaint alleges that as a direct and foreseeable consequence of the defendants’ egregious conduct, the municipalities have incurred substantial economic, administrative and social costs relating to opioid addiction and abuse, including payment for unnecessary and excessive opioid prescriptions, substance abuse treatment services, and emergency department services among others.

The lawsuit alleges the defendants sought to create a false perception in the minds of physicians, patients, health care providers and health care payors that using opioids to treat chronic pain was safe for most patients and that the drugs’ benefits outweighed the risks. This was allegedly perpetrated through a civil conspiracy involving a coordinated, sophisticated and highly deceptive (unbranded to evade the extensive regulatory framework governing branded communications) promotion and marketing campaign that began in the late 1990s, became more aggressive around 2006, and is ongoing. Specifically, the complaint details how the defendants allegedly poured significant financial resources into generating articles, continuing medical education courses and other “educational” materials, conducting sales visits to doctors, and supporting a network of professional societies and advocacy groups – all of which were successful in the intended purpose of creating a new and phony “consensus” supporting the long-term use of opioids.

The Connecticut lawsuit follows similar, ongoing action filed by Simmons Hanly Conroy on behalf of counties and parishes across the country. In addition to Connecticut, Simmons has also filed similar lawsuits in New York, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin.

About Drubner Hartley & Hellman

Founded in 1980, Drubner, Hartley & Hellman, LLC, focuses on representing plaintiffs in complex litigation and class actions.  With over three decades of experience, the firm has successfully brought actions on behalf of thousands of individuals and businesses, as well as hospitals, state and local medical societies and municipalities.

About Simmons Hanly Conroy, LLC

Simmons Hanly Conroy LLC is one of the nation’s largest mass tort law firms. Primary areas of litigation include asbestos and mesothelioma, pharmaceutical, consumer protection, environmental, sexual abuse litigation and personal injury. The firm’s attorneys have been appointed to leadership in numerous national multidistrict litigations, including most recently the Prescription Opiates, Vioxx, Yaz, Toyota Unintended Acceleration and DePuy Pinnacle. The firm also represents small and mid-size corporations, inventors and entrepreneurs in matters involving business litigation. Offices are located in Alton, Ill.; Chicago; Los Angeles; New York City; San Francisco; and St. Louis. Read more at