On May 2, 2018, three law firms filed class action lawsuits against pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors on behalf of individuals and businesses who have been handed higher insurance costs as a result of the opioid epidemic. The law firms filed suits on behalf of plaintiffs in five different federal courts: California, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York. The complaints all charge major opioid manufacturers and distributors with fraudulent and deceptive marketing practices, negligence in distributing opioids into the marketplace, and other violations of state and federal law.
In each of the lawsuits filed, the putative class includes all individuals and corporate entities that purchased health insurance, including individuals who paid for part of an employer-sponsored insurance plan. The complaints allege that each class member paid higher health insurance costs as a predictable consequence of the defendants’ misconduct.
The lawsuits are filed against some of the bigger names in the industry, including Purdue Pharma L.P.; Insys Therapeutics, Inc.; Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, Ltd.; Johnson & Johnson; and Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
The allegations include the following:
- Because opioids are highly addictive, prevailing medical norms dictated that they should not be prescribed for chronic pain;
- The manufacturer defendants disseminate false and misleading statements about opioids;
- The manufacturer defendants intentionally misled doctors and consumers about the risks and benefits of opioids to generate billions of dollars in improper profits;
- The manufacturer defendants misrepresented the known risks of long-term opioid use;
- The manufacturer defendants falsely overstated the positive long-term outcomes of opioids in cases of chronic pain;
- The manufacturer defendants falsely represented the relative risks associated with non-opioid pain relief and pain treatment strategies;
- The manufacturer defendants engaged in other unlawful and unfair misconduct;
- The manufacturer defendants failed to act on their knowledge of the diversion of their opioid drugs;
- The manufacturer defendants specifically targeted susceptible prescribers and vulnerable patient populations;
- The manufacturer defendants fraudulently concealed their misconduct;
- The manufacturer defendants’ misinformation campaign resulted in dramatic increases in opioid use, windfall profits, and a public-health crisis;
- The distributor defendants engaged in unlawful and unfair misconduct;
- The distributors defendants had a duty to exercise reasonable care in distributing the opioid drugs;
- The distributor defendants knowingly or negligently facilitated widespread diversion of opioids;
- The distributor defendants’ misconduct facilitated the opioid epidemic;
- The [various state] purchasers of healthcare insurance have sustained substantial harm as a result of all defendants’ misconduct; and
- All defendants acted wantonly, willfully, outrageously, and with reckless disregard for the consequences of their actions.
Some of the causes of action include: Violations of RICO; Conspiracy to Violate RICO; Public Nuisance; Unjust Enrichment; Negligence; Negligent Misrepresentation; and Civil Conspiracy.
Each of the three law firms that filed suit made statements:
"It is not enough that public entities collect damages for the harms suffered by taxpayers," said Ashley Keller of Keller Lenkner LLC. "Pharmaceutical companies must pay for their devastating economic impact on the health insurance market. We're here to make sure that they do."
"Obtaining redress from the opioid wrongdoers is not a 'consumers vs. business' issue, and it transcends traditional political lines," said Will Consovoy of Consovoy McCarthy Park PLLC. "These classes include individual plaintiffs, small businesses, and large corporations. All of them have suffered damages at the hands of the opioid industry."
"Decisions by opioid manufacturers and distributors to put profits over people have damaged millions of consumers and businesses that purchase health insurance coverage," said Jay Edelson of Edelson PC. "Individual policyholders are bearing the high cost of this unprecedented epidemic. Through these suits, we seek to hold the opioid companies accountable."