Philly is suing drug companies for their part in the opioid crisis

Both Ohio and Mississippi have filed similar lawsuits.

Kensington Opioid Sydney_Schaefer2
Sydney Schaefer / Billy Penn

In response to the growing opioid crisis, the City of Philadelphia announced Wednesday morning its lawsuit against prescription opioid manufacturers. This lawsuit is in an attempt to hold pharmaceutical companies accountable for the part they played in the devastating epidemic sweeping through Philly, said City Solicitor Sozi Pedro Tulante.

The city named the following defendants: Allergan/Actavis; Cephalon and Teva; Endo; Janssen and Johnson & Johnson; and Purdue — all of which are companies that make and sell prescription opioids.

The lawsuit attempts to cover the costs incurred by the surge in dangerously addictive drug use, which it identifies as including:

  • Funding for first responders
  • Increased public health and human services programs
  • Additional resources for the city’s criminal justice and prison systems

Thomas Farley, the city’s health commissioner, made the claim that the opioid epidemic in Philly was driven by “aggressive marketing” on behalf of pharmaceutical companies.

“This ultimately will solve this problem, but…it will take many years and cost us many billions of dollars,” Farley said. “To fix this, everyone must do his part, especially the drug companies that got us here in the first place.”

This isn’t the first lawsuit of its kind — last year, both Ohio and Mississippi attorney generals sued drug companies in response to the crisis. In May, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is sued five opioid manufacturers — the same entities (minus one) that Philadelphia is suing now. In October, Mississippi also filed against Johnson & Johnson, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, Endo Pharmaceuticals, among others.

The city projects that 1,200 people suffered fatal overdoses last year in Philadelphia — up from about 900 in 2016. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, between 8 and 12 percent of people prescribed opioids develop substance use disorder.

“None of this is going to bring back the thousands of people who already died from drug overdoses, but it will prevent others from experiencing the same tragedy,” Farley said.

The city will be represented by its law department, as well as attorneys from Berger & Montague, P.C., Dilworth Paxson, LLP, Sheller, P.C., Sacks Weston Diamond, LLC, Young Ricchiuti, Caldwell & Heller, LLC and Temple law professor David Kairys.

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