1.5 million Prescriptions Written
in San Bernardino County for opioids during 2017
Lawsuit Filed on Firms Responsible for OPIOID
The County of San
Bernardino Thursday, July 19, 2018 filed a lawsuit against several
pharmaceutical companies, drug distributors and pharmacies, over
the aggressive and fraudulent marketing of prescription opioid painkillers and
distribution practices that have led to a drug epidemic in the county and
throughout the nation.
In 2017, at least 35 people died in San Bernardino
County from opiate overdoses. There were at least 259 non-heroin opioid
overdose emergency department visits in the San Bernardino County and 179 opioid
"The county and our residents are
being severely affected by the opioid crisis," said Board of Supervisors
Chairman Robert Lovingood. "With this lawsuit, our county joins
hundreds of counties across the United States in an important effort to hold
these companies responsible for their role in creating the opioid
In the complaint, San Bernardino County seeks relief for the cost to the county
to combat the public nuisance created by the drug companies' deceptive
marketing campaign that misrepresents the safety and efficacy of long-term
opioid use. #2. Additionally, the complaint
alleges that the crisis has been fueled and sustained by those involved in the
supply chain of opioids, including manufacturers, distributors, and pharmacies,
who have failed to maintain effective controls over the distribution of
prescription opioids, and who instead have actively sought to evade such
The defendants in the lawsuit include Johnson & Johnson, CVS Health
Corporation, the Kroger Co., RiteAid of Maryland Inc. d/b/a RiteAid
Mid-Atlantic Customer Support Center Inc., Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. a/k/a
Walgreen Co., Wal-Mart Inc. f/k/a Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Purdue Pharma L.P.,
Purdue Pharma Inc., The Purdue Frederick Company Inc., Endo Health Solutions
Inc., Endo Pharmaceuticals Inc., Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc., Noramco Inc.,
Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc., Janssen Pharmaceutica Inc., Teva
Pharmaceuticals Industries Ltd., Teva Pharmaceuticals USA Inc., Cephalon Inc.,
Allergan PLC f/k/a Actavis PLC, Watson Pharmaceuticals Inc. n/k/a Actavis Inc.,
Watson Laboratories Inc., Actavis LLC, Actavis Pharma Inc. f/k/a Watson Pharma
Inc., Insys Therapeutics Inc., Mallinckrodt PLC, Mallinckrodt LLC, Cardinal
Health Inc., McKesson Corporation, AmerisourceBergen Drug Corporation, H.D.
Smith Wholesale Drug Co., and Miami-Luken Inc.
"The lawsuit filed today on behalf of San Bernardino County builds upon
the important work of addressing the opioid crisis," said Erin
Dickinson of Crueger Dickinson LLC, co-lead counsel in the lawsuit along with
partner Charles Crueger and Simmons Hanly Conroy Shareholder Paul J. Hanly Jr..
"Together, with Simmons Hanly Conroy, we will work to hold the
defendants responsible and to secure help for the residents of San
Bernardino County recovering from opioid addiction."
Overdose deaths are only one consequence of the opioid
epidemic. Any of one of the nearly 1.5 million prescriptions written in
for opioid medication within the county during 2017 could lead to addiction and
costly public health consequences such as increases in Hepatitis C, increased
neonatal abstinence syndrome, and increased drug crimes. This is why San
Bernardino County has been working diligently to address opioid addiction among
Apart from the toll on human life, the crisis has
financially impacted the services the San Bernardino County provides its
residents. Human services, social services, court services, law
enforcement services, the office of the coroner/medical examiner and health
services, including hospital, emergency and ambulatory services, can all be
severely impacted by the crisis. The conduct of the defendants causes counties
to incur substantial economic, administrative and social costs relating to
opioid addiction and abuse, including criminal justice costs, victimization
costs, child protective services costs, lost productivity costs, and education
and prevention program costs, among others.
The lawsuit alleges the defendants sought to create a
false perception in the minds of physicians, patients, health care providers
and everyone who pays for health care that using opioids to treat chronic pain
was safe for most patients and that the drugs' benefits outweighed the risks.
This was allegedly perpetrated through a coordinated, sophisticated and highly
deceptive promotion and marketing campaign - including unbranded messaging to
evade extensive regulatory framework governing branded communications. These
communications, which began in the late 1990s, became more aggressive around
2006 and continue today.
Further, the lawsuit alleges that drug distributors
have both the obligation and the tools to track suspiciously large surges in
prescription opioid demand, including at the level of individual
pharmacies or clinics. The lawsuit alleges, however, that the defendants have
failed to use these tools to warn public officials about suspicious orders,
which they are legally required to do, or to reasonably exercise controls over
the obvious oversupply of opioid pills.
The San Bernardino County lawsuit follows similar, ongoing action filed by
Simmons Hanly Conroy on behalf of counties across the country. In addition to
California, Simmons has filed similar litigation on behalf of more than 200 municipalities in Colorado, Connecticut, Iowa,
Illinois, Indiana, Georgia, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, New
York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.
In January 2018, Hanly was appointed co-lead counsel of the Multidistrict
Opioid Litigation to oversee all Federal Litigation brought against
pharmaceutical companies and physicians involved in the marketing of
prescription opioids. Those cases are being heard in Federal court in Ohio.
Additionally, Dickinson was named to the Plaintiffs' Executive Committee, a
committee of 16 attorneys who will play a major role in the leadership and
management of all the Federal cases in the United States.