New York City has sued several major pharmaceutical companies in an effort to hold them accountable for their role in the city’s opioid epidemic.
Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the lawsuit on Tuesday, saying it seeks to recoup $500 million of what the epidemic has cost the city, which he says will be reinvested into fighting opioid addictions and overdoses.
In 2016, more than 1,000 New York City residents died as a result of opioid overdoses, according to a statement from the mayor’s office.
The city is claiming that opioid manufacturers have burdened the health and finances of New York’s government by employing deceptive marketing to sell inordinate amounts of dangerous and addictive drugs to citizens.
Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office announced that New York City filed a lawsuit against more than a dozen Big Pharma defendants on Tuesday, shortly after his January 10 announcement of a similar lawsuit against oil companies for contributing to climate change (pictured)
Between 2010 and 2016, overdose death rates more than doubled in New York City, where about 2.7 million opioid prescriptions are filled annually.
Nearly 20 percent of opioid overdose deaths in New York happen as a result of prescription opioids.
De Blasio and First Lady Chirlane McCray filed their lawsuit against more than 10 major pharmaceutical companies that manufacture and sell opioids.
The defendants include Allergan, Johnson & Johnson, Purdue Pharma and Teva, and distributors such as AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson.
The lawsuit charges these companies and others with being a ‘public nuisance,’ acted negligently in their distribution of opioids and ‘were unjustly enriched at the City’s expense.’
‘More New Yorkers have died from opioid overdoses than car crashes and homicides combined in recent years,’ the Mayor said in a statement, blaming Big Pharma for fueling the epidemic.
‘It’s time for hold the companies accountable for what they’ve done to our City, and help save more lives,’ he said.
The mayor’s office has promised that any damages awarded to the city through the lawsuit will be dedicated to its fight against the opioid epidemic.
McCray, who heads up New York City’s mental health and substance abuse efforts through ThriveNYC, said: ‘Today, New York City demands transparency and accountability from the nation’s largest opioid manufacturers and distributors who have profited from people’s pain.
The de Blasio administration introduced HealingNYC, a $38 million local initiative to distribute naloxone, addiction treatment medications and to educate local emergency rooms and clinicians about opioids, in March.
Tuesday’s filing follows a suit the city leveled against oil companies, similarly accusing them of contributing to climate change, which the mayor announced on January 10.
Opioid overdose deaths among men (blue) and women (red, combined: purple) in New York City have climbed steadily in recent years, fueled in part by Big Pharma, the city’s suit claims
New York City is hardly the first government to sue Big Pharma companies over the opioid epidemic.
Montana and Washington as well as some smaller city governments have also filed legal complaints against OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma.
Earlier today, opioid commission member and former Congressman Patrick Kennedy slammed the federal government for what he described as hollow efforts against the opioid epidemic.
Of New York City’s action, he said ‘lawsuits like this are important because they can generate an influx of sorely-needed resources to fund treatment and prevention efforts for those suffering from addiction.’
Kennedy applauded de Blasio’s proactive approach and pointed out that ‘Congress only appropriated $500 million this year to fight the opioid crisis.
‘In contrast, the federal government was spending $24 billion at the height of the HIV/AIDS crisis. People in need of treatment and their families need support now,’ he said.