Citing "exorbitant" expenses in addressing the mounting opioid crisis, Nassau County on Monday joined a growing number of local governments in New York state and elsewhere that are suing major pharmaceutical companies, accusing them of contributing to the explosive growth in opioid addiction and overdose deaths.
In a lawsuit filed in state Supreme Court in Mineola, N.Y., Nassau County alleged that defendants including Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Johnson & Johnson and Purdue Pharma "knew—and had known for years—that opioids were addictive and subject to abuse," and should be used only as a last resort. The complaint also names five physicians and three major distributors as defendants.
The complaint charges that the pharmaceutical makers used deceptive marketing practices to sell more opioid pain killers and "realize blockbuster profits" to treat common chronic conditions such as lower back pain, arthritis and headaches.
Manhattan-based law firm Napoli Shkolnik, which filed the lawsuit on behalf of Nassau County, filed a similar suit last week for the city of Dayton, Ohio, and has more cases in progress, according to Salvatore C. Badala, an associate at the firm.
The county has incurred millions of dollars in costs related to the opioid epidemic, Badala said, adding that it hoped to get more exact figures during the discovery process.
"What we have here is a billion-dollar industry making money off of the lives of the county's residents," Badala said.
The county, which comprises about 63 municipalities, partially funds a health insurance plan for about 7,500 employees.
Crain's did not receive a response to requests for comment from Teva, Johnson & Johnson or Purdue.