Overdose deaths from prescription opioids, the synthetic opioid fentanyl and heroin in Montgomery increased from 27 in 2010 to 117 in 2016, the lawsuit says. There were 99 such deaths in the first nine months of 2017, according to the most recent data from the state Health Department.
“It is critical that we hold responsible the manufacturers and distributors whose negative actions have significantly contributed to the crisis,” County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) said Wednesday.
The lawsuit names 14 companies and alleges violations of the county and state consumer protection acts, the federal RICO racketeering act and the state’s false claims act, in addition to public nuisance, negligence and unjust enrichment.
In statements, several of the companies either denied the allegations or said they were working to stop suspicious drug orders and ensure that the drugs they manufacture and distribute are used appropriately.
“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,” said John Parker, senior vice president of the Healthcare Distribution Alliance, which represents wholesalers.
The companies named in the lawsuit are: Purdue Pharma; Cephalon, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries and Teva Pharmaceuticals USA; Endo International, Endo Health Solutions and Endo Pharmaceuticals; Janssen Pharmaceuticals; Insys Therapeutics; Mallinckrodt and Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals; AmerisourceBergen; Cardinal Health; and McKesson Corp
Mark Dearman, a partner at Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd LLP, which is representing the county on a contingency basis, said the lawsuit is not seeking a specific dollar amount. The county still is calculating the amount of damages it is claiming, Deputy County Attorney John Markovs said.
Several other jurisdictions in Maryland — including Anne Arundel and Prince George’s counties and the city of Baltimore — have filed their own suits against companies that manufacture and distribute opioids.
Last month, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) issued a directive authorizing state Attorney General Brian E. Frosh’s office to file suit against “select” opioid manufacturers and distributors. But Frosh (D) has pointed to his office’s involvement in a 41-state investigation into opioid companies and has said his office does not have the resources to launch a separate suit at Hogan’s request.