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Lawsuits allege Cardinal Health, AmerisourceBergen, McKesson Corp. created public nuisance by failing to regulate orders of prescription opiates
DALLAS – August 2, 2017 – Today, the national law firm of Baron & Budd; the law firm of Greene, Ketchum, Farrell, Bailey & Tweel LLP; and the law firm of Levin Papantonio, announced that they have filed lawsuits on behalf of four Ohio counties against the nation’s largest pharmaceutical distributors for their role in the widespread diversion of prescription opiates for nonmedical purposes. The counties represented in these cases are: Belmont, Brown, Clermont and Vinton Counties.
The Counties allege that three Fortune 500 pharmaceutical distributors – Cardinal Health, AmerisourceBergen, and McKesson Corp. – each played a role in creating a public nuisance by failing to regulate orders of prescription opiates. The following cases were filed on Friday, July 28 in federal district court in the Southeastern District of Ohio:
“It’s easy to think addicts or a small number of bad doctors are to blame for this problem. But responsibility for the opioid epidemic rests with the pharmaceutical industry – and in particular the pharmaceutical distributors who were entrusted with reporting suspicious orders and halting orders of these dangerous drugs,” said Baron & Budd Shareholder, Burton LeBlanc. “These companies need to put real dollars back into Ohio communities to combat the public nuisance they have created.”
In 1970, Congress created a “closed” chain of distribution specifically designed to prevent the diversion of legally produced controlled substances into the illicit market. In this system, distributors purchase prescription medicines and other medical products directly from manufacturers and then fill orders placed by pharmacies, hospitals, long-term care facilities, clinics and other healthcare providers. This closed-system requires wholesale distributors to monitor, identify, halt and report “suspicious orders” of controlled substances.
Opioids are widely diverted and improperly used throughout Ohio. In Vinton County, for example, in 2015, enough opioids were dispensed that every county resident could have received 105.3 doses of the addictive medication. Widespread diversion in counties throughout Ohio have resulted in the rising number of heroin users, escalating rates of unintentional drug overdoses, more children forced into the foster care system and increased budgetary constraints placed on several departments including public health and law enforcement.
Widespread opioid use has also led to a spike in drug overdose cases in Ohio. In Clermont County, for example, the number of unintentional drug overdoses nearly doubled between 2013 and 2015.
Belmont, Brown, Clermont and Vinton Counties are seeking damages to cover the costs of services including, but not limited to: medical care and treatment for patients suffering from opioid-related addiction or disease; treatment of infants born with opioid-related medical conditions; costs associated with caring for children whose parents suffer from opioid addiction; and law enforcement and public safety services related to the opioid epidemic.
The opioid epidemic in Ohio is not isolated. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) opioids were specifically involved in 33,091 overdose deaths throughout the United States in 2015, and opioid overdoses have quadrupled since 1999. By comparison, in 2015, the National Safety Council reported 37,757 traffic related fatalities throughout the U.S.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions is expected to address the opioid crisis in an upcoming speech in Columbus, Ohio. The situation has become so dire that the White House Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis has called on President Donald Trump to declare a national public health emergency.
In addition to Green Ketchum, Levin Papantonio and Baron & Budd, the Counties are also working with the following law firms related to these cases: Hill, Peterson, Carper, Bee & Deitzler, PLLC; The McHugh Fuller Law Group; and Lancione & Lancione, LLC.
The law firm of Baron & Budd, P.C., with offices in Dallas, Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Austin, Los Angeles, and San Diego, is a nationally recognized law firm with a nearly 40-year history of “Protecting What’s Right” for people, communities and businesses harmed by negligence. Baron & Budd’s size and resources enable the firm to take on large and complex cases. The firm represents individuals and government and business entities in areas as diverse as dangerous pharmaceuticals and medical devices, environmental contamination, the Gulf oil spill, financial fraud, overtime violations, deceptive advertising, automotive defects, trucking accidents, nursing home abuse, and asbestos-related illnesses such as mesothelioma.