Local Communities Holding Pharmaceutical Companies Accountable

USA Pills

A few weeks ago, this blog featured an article on the lawsuits being filed against major pharmaceutical companies such as Purdue Pharma (maker and marketer of OxyContin and Dilaudid), Endo International (Percoset and Opana), Teva Pharmaceutical Industries (generic hydrocodone), Depomed, Janssen/Johnson & Johnson (Duragesic) and others.

In the weeks that followed the publication of that article, even more states, counties and cities have initiated legal action against these companies and others who manufacture, market or distribute these addictive pills.

Our earlier article mentioned lawsuits and other legal actions from Chicago; Orange and Santa Clara Counties, California; Suffolk County, New York; West Virginia; Everett, Washington; Missouri and Ohio.

The following counties, states and groups have now jumped on the same bandwagon:

Bernalillo County, New Mexico announced its intention to file a lawsuit against pharmaceutical companies for misleading marketing practices. This Northern New Mexico county has one of the highest overdose rates in the country and the majority of deaths result from painkillers.

Capital building in New Mexico.
Capital building in New Mexico.

On September 7, the New Mexico Attorney General held a press conference to announce a lawsuit against Purdue Pharma, Teva Pharmaceuticals Industries Ltd., Johnson & Johnson, Allergan Plc and Endo International Plc, all makers of painkillers. They also named the three largest pharmaceutical distributors in their lawsuit—McKesson, AmerisourceBergen and Cardinal Health.

In May 2017, the Cherokee Nation filed suit in a tribal court in Oklahoma. Cherokee Nation representatives stated that they hoped to gain access to corporate records that showed that the companies knew that much of the tribal drug supply was being diverted to misuse. The same three pharmaceutical distributors were named, along with three drug retailers—CVS, Walgreens and Walmart.

In June 2017, the State of Oklahoma filed a lawsuit against, Purdue Pharma, Johnson & Johnson, Allergan Plc and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. Attorney General Mike Hunter told news reporters that there had been 3,000 drug-related deaths in the state in the prior three years.

Tennessee Capital

Three counties in Tennessee filed suit in the summer of 2017. Per person, opioid prescribing is higher in Tennessee than any other state except West Virginia. Their suit was filed against Purdue Pharma, Mallinckrodt and Endo Pharmaceuticals.

Also in the summer, a coalition of attorneys general from more than twenty states announced an investigation into these marketing practices. Cooperating states include Alabama, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, D.C., and Wisconsin. Other states may also be involved but did decline to comment.

The State of New Hampshire initiated their own investigation into the activities of five drugmakers and issued subpoenas to collect information that would enable the State to determine wrongdoing regarding the marketing of opioids.

According to the Washington Post, at least 25 states, cities and counties have now filed civil cases against these and other pharmaceutical corporations. And then there are also other investigations in progress, such as the one from New Hampshire and the one run by the coalition of states.

What will the outcome be? Will pharmaceutical companies be forced to radically revise their marketing methods and abandon profiteering from the catastrophic opioid epidemic? Will these lawsuits and investigations result in settlements and judgments sufficient to enable those who have suffered as a result to receive life-saving rehabilitation?

It will take time to see the results of these efforts. At this point, more than three times as many Americans died from opioid overdoses since 2000 as the number that died in the Vietnam War. The ability to assign accountability for this catastrophe and dedicate resulting funds to this nation’s recovery could be a very key elements in putting this entire opioid epidemic behind us.


Karen Hadley

For more than a decade, Karen has been researching and writing about drug trafficking, drug abuse, addiction and recovery. She has also studied and written about policy issues related to drug treatment.