PHILADELPHIA – The City of Philadelphia has become the latest government entity in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to sue opioid manufacturers for deceptive marketing practices and creating what it has termed “an unprecedented public health crisis.”

The City filed suit in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas on Jan. 17 versus Allergan, PLC, of Parsippany, N.J., Cephalon, Inc. and Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc. of North Wales, Endo Health Solutions and Endo Pharmaceuticals, Inc. of Frazer, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc. of Titusville, N.J., Johnson & Johnson of New Brunswick, N.J., plus Purdue Pharma, L.P., Purdue Pharma, Inc. and Purdue Frederick Company, Inc., all of Stamford, Conn.

The lawsuit, which joins others currently pending from other counties and governmental entities in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and other states nationwide, charges the drug manufacturers are liable in part for the addiction issues resulting from use and abuse of their products, and should be held accountable.

Attorneys hired by the City in this action will receive approximately one-third of any costs recovered.

In addition to city attorneys, Philadelphia is represented by private lawyers:

-Thomas S. Biemer and Jerry R. DeSiderato of Dilworth Paxson;

-Stephen A. Sheller and Lauren A. Sheller of Sheller P.C.;

-Daniel Berger, Lawrence J. Lederer, Tyler E. Wren, Jon Lambiras, Sarah Schalman-Bergen, Michaela Wallin and Neil Makhija of Berger & Montague;

-Andrew Sacks and John Weston of Sacks Weston Diamond;

-Gregory B. Heller of Young Ricchiuti Caldwell & Heller; and

-Temple University School of Law Professor David Kairys.

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said, “The epidemic currently plaguing the City has exacted a grim toll on Philadelphia residents and their families. And the cause can be directly linked to the methods used by manufacturers to market and sell their products to doctors and the public. Those tactics have to end.”

City Solicitor Sozi Pedro Tulante added, “This public health crisis harms public safety, order, and economic productivity. City agencies have incurred large, burdensome, unnecessary and avoidable costs to address the crisis. It is our duty to devote all resources we can to help protect the public from further perils and to finally put an end to the practices which are the root of this epidemic.”

Per the City’s Public Health Department, one in seven Philadelphia citizens have used opioid medications in the past year – some of whom become addicted – and the number of fatal overdoses in Philadelphia in 2017 was due to reach 1,200; an increase of about 300 more deaths than in 2016.

According to data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2016 Philadelphia suffered a rate of overdose deaths per-capita that was fourth highest in the nation and higher than any other large city.

“The opioid crisis is the largest public health crisis this city has seen in a century, and it has been fueled by drug companies. It’s well past time for those companies to stop pushing these drugs and start helping us cope with the human tragedy they have caused,” Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley said.

For counts of public nuisance and violation of both the Philadelphia False Claims Act and Pennsylvania’s Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law, the City is seeking to recover costs it has expended on combating the health crisis related to opioid abuse and addiction, which number into the millions of dollars.

Those City costs include funding for first-responders who treat opioid overdoses, funding of public health and human services programs that treat addicted City residents, increased resources to fund the City’s criminal justice and prison systems, and expenditures to many other City departments and programs affected by the use and abuse of opioids. The lawsuit also seeks to recover costs the City spent through its self-funded health insurance plans to purchase opioids for City employees who were prescribed opioids by their doctors.

Specifically, the expenses looking to be recouped by the City include money spent to assist the Police Department, District Attorney’s Office, Public Defender’s Office, Department of Prisons, Health Department, Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual Disability Services, Department of Human Services, and the Office of Homeless Services.

Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas case 180102718

From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at nickpennrecord@gmail.com

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