Milwaukee County Fights to Hold Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Distributors Responsible for Creating Opioid Epidemic

March 14, 2018  |  Press Releases, Public Entities

National law firm Baron & Budd to lead litigation against drug companies, alleging costs of treatment for addiction, education and law enforcement tied to pervasive opioid abuse

DALLAS – March 14, 2018 – Today, the national law firm of Baron & Budd announced that it will serve as a lead firm in a new lawsuit on behalf of Milwaukee County against many of the nation’s largest pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors for their role in creating a widespread diversion of prescription opiates for nonmedical purposes. The case was filed in federal district court in the Eastern District of Wisconsin.

Milwaukee County has struggled to cope with a rising number of drug overdose cases, including 336 people who died from drug overdoses in 2017, the majority of which involved opioids. This number of overdose deaths is higher than the combined number of suicides, homicides and motor vehicle accidents in Milwaukee County in 2017. Further, in 2017 Milwaukee County EMS paramedics, firefighters and law enforcement administered 1,232 doses of naloxone to overdose patients. The County has experienced a 495 percent increase in heroin-related deaths since 2005.

The rise in drug overdoses aligns with consistently high prescribing rate for opioid medications in Milwaukee County. According to recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2016, approximately 7.7 opioid prescriptions were dispensed for every 10 residents living in the Milwaukee area.  This is not a new problem – in 2011, the prescribing rate was tragically high at 99.5 per 100 persons, which means that almost one prescription was written for every man, woman and child in Milwaukee County.

In the suit, Milwaukee County alleges that many of the nation’s largest drug manufactures pushed highly addictive, dangerous opioids, and deliberately misinformed doctors by claiming that patients using the drugs rarely experienced addiction. The companies named in the suit include: Purdue Pharma; Teva Ltd. (which acquired pharmaceutical maker Cephalon, Inc. in 2011); Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson); Endo Health Solutions, Inc.; Allergan PLC; and Mallinckrodt. Drugs manufactured by these companies include, but are not limited to: OxyContin, Actiq, Fentora, Duragesic, Nucynta, Nucynta ER, Opana/Opana ER, Percodan, Percocet, Zydone, Kadian and Norco.

The suit further alleges that three of the nation’s largest drug distributors – Cardinal Health, AmerisourceBergen, and McKesson Corp. – failed to monitor, identify and report suspicious activity in the size and frequency of opioid shipments to pharmacies, in violation of the federal Controlled Substances Act.

“The elected leaders of Milwaukee County are taking an important step forward by going on the offense against the manufacturers and distributors of highly addictive, dangerous prescription opioid drugs,” said Baron & Budd Shareholder, Burton LeBlanc. “Milwaukee County understands that significant resources will be needed to provide treatment for addiction, education and law enforcement to combat the opioid epidemic. I’m proud to be leading this team and intend to hold these manufacturers and distributors responsible for the widespread damage they have caused in this community.”

Milwaukee County has hired a team of expert law firms, experienced in holding the powerful pharmaceutical industry accountable. Those firms include Baron & Budd; Levin, Papantonio, Thomas, Mitchell, Rafferty & Proctor; Greene Ketchum Bailey Farrell & Tweel; Hill, Peterson, Carper, Bee & Deitzler; McHugh Fuller Law Group; Aiken & Scoptur; MWH Law Group; and Kerkman, Wagner & Dunn. The firms currently represent approximately 270 cities and counties throughout the United States. Baron & Budd serves as lead counsel to approximately 80 percent of the municipalities that have filed suit against pharmaceutical distributors for opioid-related claims.


Baron & Budd, P.C. is among the largest and most accomplished plaintiffs’ law firms in the country. With more than 40 years of experience, Baron & Budd has the expertise and resources to handle complex litigation throughout the United States. As a law firm that takes pride in remaining at the forefront of litigation, Baron & Budd has spearheaded many significant cases for hundreds of entities and thousands of individuals. Since the firm was founded in 1977, Baron & Budd has achieved substantial national acclaim for its work on cutting-edge litigation, trying hundreds of cases to verdict and settling tens of thousands of cases in areas of litigation as diverse as dangerous pharmaceuticals and defective medical devices, asbestos and mesothelioma, environmental contamination, fraudulent banking practices, motor vehicles, employment, and other consumer fraud issues.

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