This action makes Arkansas the 17th state to sue opioid manufacturers due to their involvement in the American drug epidemic.
Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge filed a lawsuit against 52 opioid manufacturers, including Purdue Pharma, Endo Pharmaceuticals and Johnson & Johnson, as well as 13 other distributors, physicians, pharmacists and retailers. This action makes Arkansas the 17th state to sue opioid manufacturers due to their involvement in the American drug epidemic. The lawsuits claim that manufacturers used misleading marketing practices.
“The reckless actions of these opioid manufacturers have wreaked havoc upon Arkansas and her citizens for far too long,” Rutledge said in a statement.
The Arkansas case is different from other lawsuits against opioid manufacturers because it brings together cities and counties in a single civil case. “Our case is unique in that regard, because it focuses on a remedy that will solve this problem,” Jerome Tapley, an attorney advising the cities and counties in the suit, told CNN.
The lawsuit, which was filed in Little Rock, says opioid manufacturers spent millions of dollars on misleading marketing. Promotional materials, which were distributed to doctors, patients, pharmacies, and other potential customers, were not transparent about the risks of addiction and other side effects of opioid medication. Instead, the companies’ marketing minimized or misrepresented the risks and played up the benefits of using the drugs. The lawsuit claims that opioid manufacturers “falsely touted the benefits of long-term opioid use, including the supposed ability of opioids to improve function and quality of life, even though there was no ‘good evidence’ to support their claims.”
“Each manufacturer defendant knew that its misrepresentations of the risks and benefits of opioids were not supported by, or were directly contrary, to the scientific evidence,” says the suit.
The suit is seeking a jury trial in Arkansas determine how much money the companies should pay in reparations. The settlement would be used to create mental health clinics, drug courts, opioid abuse treatment clinics and other treatment programs in Arkansas. The Healthcare Distribution Alliance, a national trade association that represents wholesale distributors of opioids, including two named in the suit, called the drug epidemic a “complex public health challenge that requires a collaborative and systemic response.”
“The idea that distributors are responsible for the number of opioid prescriptions written defies common sense and lacks understanding of how the pharmaceutical supply chain actually works and is regulated,” Senior Vice President John Parker said in a written statement. “Those bringing lawsuits would be better served addressing the root causes, rather than trying to redirect blame through litigation.”
The three major companies named in the suit have not all filed responses, and they have given public statements to the press.
Johnson & Johnson:
“Our actions in the marketing and promotion of these medicines were appropriate and responsible. The labels for our prescription opioid pain medicines provide information about their risks and benefits, and the allegations made against our company are baseless and unsubstantiated. In fact, our medications have some of the lowest rates of abuse among this class of medications.”
“We vigorously deny these allegations and look forward to the opportunity to present our defense.” They are “deeply troubled by the prescription and illicit opioid abuse crisis” and they are dedicated to working toward a solution.
Endo, the third major company named in the lawsuit, did not respond to requests for comment. “We are unable to comment on legal matters relating to specific member companies,” industry group PhRMA told CNN in a statement.