Thirteen Kentucky hospitals are suing more than 40 opioid manufacturers, distributors and sellers for using “a false narrative marketing scheme” that understated the risks associated with opioids and “precipitated the crisis,” Sarah Ladd reports for the Louisville Courier Journal.
The complaint, filed in Warren Circuit Court in Bowling Green Aug. 21 and amended Sept. 5, alleges that more than 40 companies, including Walmart, Purdue Pharma and Johnson & Johnson misrepresented opioids as safer than they were and were part of a conspiracy to benefit “both independently and jointly from their wrongful conduct.”
“Through a massive marketing campaign premised on false and incomplete information, the marketing defendants engineered a dramatic shift in how and when opioids are prescribed by the medical community and used by patients,” says the complaint, which Ladd reports is more than 300 pages.
The complaint adds that the progression of prescription opioids to the use of illicit drugs is well documented and that “approximately 75 percent of heroin users reporting that their initial drug use was through prescription.” It also cites the uptick in opioid-related deaths in Kentucky, from one in 100,000 people in 1999 to 10 in 100,000 people in 2017 and says, “No state has been hit harder by the opioid epidemic than Kentucky.”
Further, it says opioids have “endangered public health in Kentucky even beyond addiction and overdose. Addicts who are not killed by drug addiction experience a variety of health consequences (including non-fatal overdoses) and engage in a variety of risky drug-seeking behaviors.”
Ladd reports that the lawsuit asks for judgement to be taken against the defendants as well as monetary damages. She adds that the Kentucky suit follows thousands of others across the nation in recent months and that Attorney General Andy Beshear has filed nine such lawsuits.
“In August, Oklahoma won $572 million in a suit against Johnson & Johnson that sought to hold the company accountable for the opioid crisis. Also in August, it was reported that OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma was offering a settlement worth $10 billion to $12 billion to resolve claims that it bears responsibility for the nation’s opioid crisis after it faced more than 2,000 lawsuits, some involving state and local governments,” Ladd notes.
Who is suing? Ladd reports these 13 health systems, with 23 hospitals: Baptist Healthcare System and one of its subsidiaries, Baptist Health Madisonville; Bowling Green-Warren County Community Hospital Corp. and two of its subsidiaries, The Medical Center at Albany and The Medical Center at Franklin; the Grayson County Hospital Foundation in Leitchfield; Harrison Memorial Hospital in Cynthiana; Highlands Hospital Corp. in Paintsville; Pikeville Medical Center; St. Elizabeth Medical Center in Covington; St. Claire Medical Center in Morehead; Taylor County Hospital District Health Facilities Corp. in Campbellsville; and ARH Tug Valley Health in South Williamson.
The defendants, other than Walmart, Johnson & Johnson and Purdue Pharma and several members of the Sackler family that own it, include Abbott Laboratories, AmerisourceBergen Drug Corp., Cardinal Health Inc., CVS Health Corp., Miami-Luken Inc., Richie Pharmacal, Rite Aid Of Maryland and Walgreen Co.