Trumbull joins other Ohio counties in suing pharmaceutical companies
By Ed Runyan
Trumbull County commissioners, through four law firms, filed a 270-page lawsuit in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court against many of the major pharmaceutical companies, seeking financial damages for the health care and other services the county has had to provide as a result of the opioid crisis.
“This case is about one thing: corporate greed,” the suit says. “Defendants put their desire for profits above the health and well being of the County of Trumbull consumers at the cost of” Trumbull County, the suit says.
Attorneys from the four firms gave a presentation at a recent commissioners meeting about the lawsuit, saying there would be no cost to the county to file the suit, but the county will recover damages if the suit is successful.
Lead attorneys Plevin & Gallucci of Cleveland filed similar suits elsewhere in Ohio, including on behalf of Cuyahoga County in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court in October.
Among the pharmaceutical companies named as defendants are Purdue Pharma, Teva Pharmaceuticals, Cephalon, Johnson & Johnson and Janssen Pharmaceutica.
On its website, Purdue Pharma said, “Our industry and our company have and will continue to take meaningful action to reduce opioid abuse. We focused our talented research scientists and applied our innovative thinking to making opioids with abuse-deterrent properties, making them harder to crush and, therefore, harder to be abused by snorting or injection. With this investment, we pioneered the pharmaceutical industry’s movement toward developing opioids with abuse-deterrent properties when we were the first to receive FDA approval.”
The suit says Trumbull County pays for many health care services for the poor and also spends a great deal on law enforcement to combat the opioid epidemic that the suit blames on the defendants.
The suit says the defendants “knew that opioids were effective treatments for short-term post-surgical and trauma-related pain” and for end-of-life care. “Yet they also knew – and had known for years – that opioids were addictive and subject to abuse, particularly when used long-term for chronic non-cancer pain ... and should not be used except as a last resort.”
The suits says the defendants, “through a sophisticated and highly deceptive and unfair marketing campaign that began in the late 1990s, deepened around 2006, and continues to the present, set out to, and did, reverse the popular and medical understanding of opioids.
“Chronic opioid therapy – the prescribing of opioids to treat chronic pain – is now commonplace.”
The lawsuit notes that Trumbull County has been especially hard-hit by the opioid epidemic with a death rate from overdoses at 34.2 per 100,000 population, “which is one of the highest rates in Ohio.”
The epidemic has increased costs at the county jail, increased the number of children entering custody at Trumbull County Children Services and increased the number of county 911 calls from 14,000 in 2016 to more than 17,500 this year, the suit says.
The suit seeks an unspecified amount of monetary and punitive damages from the pharmaceutical companies.