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Philly files lawsuit against pharmaceutical companies for opioid crisis

Philadelphia files lawsuit demanding drugmakers pay up for rash of overdose deaths.
Photo: ISTOCK

In 2016, some 900 people lost their lives to drug overdoses, mostly heroin, in Philadelphia. In 2017, overdoses grew by one-third to some 1,200 overdose deaths.

Now Philadelphia is laying the blame on several major drug companies that, in a new lawsuit announced on Wednesday, the city will demand help pay up for the ravages of the opioid epidemic.

The lawsuit was filed against Allergan/Actavis, Cephalon, Teva, Endo, Janssen, Johnson & Johnson and Purdue, which all make and sell prescription opioids, demanding they end deceptive marketing practices and reimburse the city for the costs it has incurred while fighting the opioid plague, they said.

“The epidemic currently plaguing the city has exacted a grim toll on Philadelphia residents and their families,” Mayor Jim Kenney said in a statement. “And the cause can be directly linked to the methods used by manufacturers to market and sell their products to doctors and the public. Those tactics have to end.” 

The lawsuit specifies that Philadelphia wants to be reimbursed for costs of first responders who fight overdoses, public health and treatment programs,  criminal justice and prison programs and any other city departments or programs that are impacted by opioid abuse.

Philly now joins a wave of cases filed against drugmakers by Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Ohio, Missouri, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Washington state, and several cities and counties in states including California, Illinois and New York.

Philly has it particularly bad: In 2016, it was estimated by the CDC to have the fourth highest per-capita overdose rate in the nation, and the highest of any large city.

“The opioid crisis is the largest public health crisis this city has seen in a century, and it has been fueled by drug companies," Philly Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley said in a statement. “It’s well past time for those companies to stop pushing these drugs and start helping us cope with the human tragedy they have caused.”