Casper Sues Opioid Makers, Distributors
The City of Casper has sued Purdue Pharma and other manufacturers and distributors of opioids alleging they promoted the use of these controlled substances such as Oxycontin and fentanyl causing addiction and subsequent social costs.
"Defendants' conduct in promoting opioid use, i.e, addiction, abuse, overdose and death, has had severe and far-reaching public health, social services, and criminal justice consequences, including the fueling of addiction and overdose from illicit drugs such as heroin," according to the 199-page complaint filed Monday by attorneys Jason Ochs of Jackson and Steven Skikos of San Francisco.
"The costs are borne by Plaintiff and other governmental entities," according to the lawsuit.
In a news release from the city on Thursday, Mayor Charlie Powell said taxpayers foot the bill for law enforcement, family services, morgues and medical services.
"Casper is committed to protecting its citizens by initiating litigation in an effort to stop the makers of prescription painkillers from continuing their alleged deceptive marketing practices."
The lawsuit is similar to those filed by the Northern Arapaho Tribe, the State of Wyoming, and Sweetwater and Converse counties.
More than 1,300 similar lawsuits have been filed elsewhere by states, counties, municipalities and tribes that are being processed through the U.S. District Court Northern District of Ohio.
Casper's lawsuit is perhaps too similar, because it appears to copy and paste from other legal actions, one involving Ohio.
For example, it cites the cases of "a man from Warren county, Wyoming," and "In Columbus, Wyoming, a DEA investigation led to the 2011 prosecution of sixteen individuals in the 'oxycodone pipeline between Wyoming and Florida,'" with the latter quote from the Columbus Dispatch newspaper.
There is no Warren County, Wyoming, nor a Columbus, Wyoming.
The lawsuit also mentions Wyoming along a route along Interstate 75 from Florida to Georgia, Kentucky and West Virginia. Interstate 75 is not is Wyoming, either.
In Casper's lawsuit, the city is seeking an award of damages in an amount to be determined at trial; compensation for past and future costs to deal with the opioid epidemic; damages to cover losses by law enforcement and other first responders, and losses in diminished property values; and punitive damages.
It is filed under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. Other causes of action include public nuisance, negligence, fraud, and deceptive trade practices.
These are the manufacturing defendants:
- Purdue Pharma L.P.
- Purdue Pharma, Inc.
- The Purdue Frederick Company, Inc.
- Cephalon, Inc.
- Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, Ltd.
- Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc.
- Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
- Johnson & Johnson.
- Ortho-McNeil Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
- Janssen Pharmaceutica, Inc.
- Endo Health Solutions, Inc.
- Mallinckrodt Plc.
- Mallinckrodt LLC.
- McKesson Corp.
- Cardinal Health, Inc.
- Amerisourcebergen Corp.
- Walgreens Boots Alliance, Inc., also known as Walgreen Co.
- Walmart, Inc.
Casper's lawsuit, like similar lawsuits, claims the companies began a marketing campaign more than two decades ago that misled doctors and patients into believing that opioids such as oxycodone and oxycontin can be used to treat chronic pain instead of just short-term acute pain or end-of-life pain.
Those social consequences include addicted homeless persons who commit drug and property crimes to feed their addictions, according to the lawsuit.
Purdue Pharma denied the allegations in three similar lawsuits filed by tribes in Washington. A company spokesman told the Kitsap Sun in Bremerton, Wash., in March, "We are deeply troubled by the prescription and illicit opioid abuse crisis, and we are dedicated to being part of the solution. As a company grounded in science, we must balance patient access to FDA-approved medicines, while working collaboratively to solve this public health challenge."