ST. LOUIS –– Ten Missouri counties and the city of Joplin joined communities across the country in litigation over the nation's opioid epidemic.
Attorneys from around the state brought the lawsuit on Aug. 1 in St. Louis Circuit Court. The complaint is aimed at dozens of manufacturers, distributors, pharmacies and prescription benefit managers who allegedly misled doctors and the public about the dangers of opioid-based drugs.
Purdue Pharma, Johnson & Johnson and CVS Pharmacy are among the 49 defendants named in the suit, which seeks reimbursement of costs expended in fighting the opioid "epidemic." It also seeks future costs in continuing attempts to finance community efforts in stopping the problem.
"The misbranding and overabundance of opioids has caused death, abuse, addiction, crime and social and familial destruction in each of these counties and city," the complaint states. "Plaintiffs have paid for and will continue to pay the costs, including but not limited to, of: law enforcement, public safety, incarceration, medical care, costs of treatment, counseling and withdrawal, family protective services and autopsies."
The lawsuit claims the companies violated several state and federal laws.
The attorneys contend the manufacturers and distributors misled doctors and others regarding the use of opioids, including marketing them as non-addictive.
The lawsuit also claims companies failed to report suspicious orders to the Missouri State Pharmaceutical Board and Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).
Some companies defended themselves after hearing about the lawsuit.
“The misuse and abuse of prescription opioids is a complex public health challenge that requires a collaborative and systemic response that engages all stakeholders," John Parker, senior vice president at Healthcare Distribution Alliance, wrote in an e-mailed statement to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
“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," Parker continued. "Those bringing lawsuits would be better served addressing the root causes, rather than trying to redirect blame through litigation.”