Arlington files suit against opioid industry

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Arlington County is taking legal action against opioid manufacturers, distributors, and pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) for their role in creating the public health emergency caused by prescription opioids.

Arlington County filed the lawsuit in state court against opioid manufacturers, distributors, and PBMs — including pharmaceutical titans Purdue Pharma, McKesson, and CVS Caremark.

The lawsuit alleges that each defendant contributes to the opioid crisis in Arlington County—drug manufacturers make the drugs and misrepresent the truth about their benefits and addiction risks to doctors and patients; wholesale distributors ignore their responsibilities to report and stop suspicious orders of opioids leading to drug diversion to the black market; and PBMs leverage their role as middlemen to increase the flow of opioids into the marketplace.  The County has alleged violations of statutory and common law public nuisance, the Virginia Consumer Protection Act, fraud, common law conspiracy, negligence, and unjust enrichment.

The defendants include manufacturers Purdue Pharma, Abbott Laboratories, Endo Pharmaceuticals, Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals; Teva Pharmaceuticals, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Cephalon, Inc., Barr Laboratories, Inc., Actavis Pharma, Watson Laboratories, Inc., Allergan PLC, and Insys Therapeutics; distributors AmerisourceBergen Drug Corp., Cardinal Health Inc., McKesson Corp., and Henry Schein, Inc.; and PBMs Express Scripts, Inc., CVS Health; United Health Group Inc., and OptumRx, Inc.

The opioid epidemic has had a harmful impact in Arlington, the lawsuit alleges. The rates of neonatal abstinence syndrome – one of the conditions that afflict babies that are born addicted to opioids – and Hepatitis C – a communicable disease that can be spread by intravenous opioid use – have increased steadily in the county since at least 2011. Even more disturbingly, the rate of overdose deaths in Arlington County has sharply risen from 2 to 3.9 deaths per 100,000 people in 1999 to 8 to 9.9 deaths per 100,000 people in 2016, the suit alleges.

“We are pleased to represent Arlington County as it seeks to hold the defendants accountable for their reprehensible actions and recover the funds the County has spent to address the impact of the opioid crisis.  Arlington County’s citizens deserve justice for the harms inflicted upon them by the defendants and our respective firms are proud to take on this fight on their behalf,” said Kevin H.  Sharp of Sanford Heisler Sharp, LLP.

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Truman Lewis
A former reporter and bureau chief, Truman Lewis has covered presidential campaigns, state politics and stories ranging from organized crime to environmental and consumer protection.