Greenville County suing multiple major drug companies over opioi - WFXG FOX 54 - News Now

Greenville County suing multiple major drug companies over opioid crisis

(file photo | CNN) (file photo | CNN)
GREENVILLE, SC (FOX Carolina) -

The County of Greenville is suing numerous pharmaceutical companies amid a growing opioid abuse problem across the country.

The lawsuit filed on Monday accuses large pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors of contributing to the opioid crisis through marketing and a "scheme to change prescriber habits and public perception."

The lawsuit claims that the named drug companies launched unbranded marketing campaigns to convince doctors and patients that there are benefits of using opioids to treat chronic pain, and to circumvent consumer protection laws.

Opioid use has nearly quadrupled in the U.S. since the marketing began in the late 90s, according to the lawsuit. Deaths from prescription opioids have also quadruped since 1999, the lawsuit claims.

The county said in 2016, South Carolina was ninth in the country for rates of opioid prescriptions., citing 876 overdose deaths in the state during that year. In October 2017, Pres. Trump declared the opioid epidemic a public health emergency.

Since heroin is cheaper than prescription painkillers, the lawsuit says many who are addicted to opioids eventually migrate to heroin use.

The lawsuit also states that in 2012, drug companies made $8 billion in revenue from opioids, with $3.1 billion made by Perdue on sales of OxyContin.

In a statement, Purdue Pharma said they have "restructured and significantly reduced our commercial operation and will no longer be promoting opioids to prescribers.”

The company said effective immediately, Perdue field sales organization will no longer visit offices to engage in discussion about opioid products.

The following drug manufacturers and distributors are named in the case:

  • RITE AID OF SOUTH CAROLINA, INC.;
  • PURDUE PHARMA L.P.;
  • PURDUE PHARMA INC.;
  • THE PURDUE FREDERICK COMPANY, INC.;
  • TEVA PHARMACEUTICALS USA, INC.;
  • CEPHALON, INC.;
  • JOHNSON & JOHNSON;
  • JANSSEN PHARMACEUTICALS, INC.;
  • ORTHOMCNEIL-JANSSEN PHARMACEUTICALS, INC N/K/A JANSSEN PHARMACEUTICALS, INC.;
  • JANSSEN PHARMACEUTICA, INC. N/K/A JANSSEN
  • PHARMACEUTICALS, INC.;
  • ENDO HEALTH SOLUTIONS INC.;
  • ENDO PHARMACEUTICALS, INC.;
  • ALLERGAN PLC F/K/A ACTAVIS PLC;
  • ACTAVIS, INC. F/K/A WATSON PHARMACEUTICALS, INC.;
  • WATSON LABORATORIES, INC.;
  • ACTAVIS LLC;
  • ACTAVIS PHARMA, INC. F/K/A WATSON PHARMA, INC.;
  • MCKESSON CORPORATION;
  • CARDINAL HEALTH, INC.;
  • AMERISOURCEBERGEN CORPORATION;
  • SMITH DRUG COMPANY;
  • WAL-MART STORES EAST, LP;
  • WAL-MART STORES, INC.;
  • CVS PHARMACY, INC.;
  • CVS HEALTH CORPORATION;

Several sales representatives and employees for pharmaceutical companies are also named in the lawsuit. FOX Carolina has reached out to the pharmaceutical companies named in the lawsuit for comment.

Endo Health Solutions and Rite Aid of South Carolina said they do not comment on pending litigation.

Perdue Pharma issued the following statement:

“We are deeply troubled by the prescription and illicit opioid abuse crisis, and we are dedicated to being part of the solution. As a company grounded in science, we must balance patient access to FDA-approved medicines, while working collaboratively to solve this public health challenge. Although our products account for less than 2% of the total opioid prescriptions, as a company, we’ve distributed the CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain, developed three of the first four FDA-approved opioid medications with abuse-deterrent properties and partner with law enforcement to ensure access to naloxone. We vigorously deny these allegations and look forward to the opportunity to present our defense.”

John Parker, the senior vice president for Healthcare Distribution Alliance, which represents McKesson and Cardinal Health, issued the following statement:

“The misuse and abuse of prescription opioids is a complex public health challenge that requires a collaborative and systemic response that engages all stakeholders. Given our role, the idea that distributors are responsible for the number of opioid prescriptions written defies common sense and lacks understanding of how the pharmaceutical supply chain actually works and is regulated. Those bringing lawsuits would be better served addressing the root causes, rather than trying to redirect blame through litigation.”

AmerisourceBergen issued the following statement:

AmerisourceBergen and other wholesale drug distributors are responsible for getting FDA-approved drugs from pharmaceutical manufacturers to DEA-registered pharmacies, based on prescriptions written by licensed doctors and health care providers. Our role in doing so is quite widespread across different therapies, with the distribution of opioid-based products constituting less than two percent of our sales.

We are dedicated to doing our part as a distributor to mitigate the diversion of these drugs without interfering with clinical decisions made by doctors, who interact directly with patients and decide what treatments are most appropriate for their care. Beyond our reporting and immediate halting of tens of thousands of potentially suspicious orders, we refuse service to customers we deem as a diversion risk and provide daily reports to the DEA that detail the quantity, type, and the receiving pharmacy of every single order of these products that we distribute.

We are committed to collaborating with all stakeholders, including in South Carolina, on ways to combat opioid abuse.

Jessica Castles, a spokesperson for Janssen Pharmaceuticals, issued the following statement:

Our actions in the marketing and promotion of these medicines were appropriate and responsible. The labels for our prescription opioid pain medicines provide information about their risks and benefits, and the allegations made against our company are baseless and unsubstantiated. In fact, our medications have some of the lowest rates of abuse among this class of medications.

Opioid abuse and addiction are serious public health issues. We are committed to being part of the ongoing dialogue and to doing our part to find ways to address this crisis. 

Allergan issued the following statement:

“It is important to put into perspective Allergan’s role regarding opioids. Allergan’s three legacy opioid products – Norco, Kadian and Fiorinal with Codeine – account for less than 0.04% of all opioid products prescribed in 2017 in the U.S. These products came to Allergan through legacy acquisitions and have not been promoted since 2013, in the case of Kadian and Fiorinal, and since 2003, in the case of Norco. Allergan has a history of supporting -- and continues to support -- the safe, responsible use of prescription medications. This includes opioid medications, which when prescribed and used responsibly, play an appropriate role in pain relief for millions of Americans.”

Smith Drug Company issued the following statement:

Smith Drug Company recognizes that illegal drug use is a problem in our country, and therefore takes stringent measures to ensure that our products are sold only to pharmacies licensed and registered by the DEA and the state to fill prescriptions written by physicians and providers who are both licensed and DEA registered. We use a computerized monitoring system, which rejects orders that are unusual in size, ordering pattern or ordering frequency. We routinely cancel these orders, report suspicious activity to the appropriate authorities and refuse to do business with these pharmacies. We work with a variety of government agencies to ensure that appropriate measures are in place to prevent illegal drug diversion while safeguarding the security, safety and access of prescription medication for patients with a legitimate need, including those with end-stage cancer or major trauma.

MORE NEWS: Investigators: Powdery substance found near 3 dead in 48 hours in Greenville Co.

Copyright 2018 FOX Carolina (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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