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Sanford Heisler Sharp LLP | 20th Anniversary 2004 - 2024

Martinsville, Va., Opioids Lawsuit

Martinsville, VA Opioid Epidemic 

Case name: City of Martinsville, Va., v. OptumRX, Inc., et al. 

Case type: Public Interest Litigation

Filed in: [Circuit Court for the City of Martinsville (Va.)]

Docket: [Case No.: 000-240-00] 

Case Summary

In October 2018, Sanford Heisler Sharp, Kaufman & Canoles, P.C., and The Cicala Law Firm PLLC filed a lawsuit on behalf of The City of Martinsville, Virginia, against opioid manufacturers, distributors, and pharmacy benefit managers (“PBMs”) for their role in creating the public health emergency caused by prescription opioids.  

While most opioid lawsuits filed in the United States have been consolidated as part of multi-district litigation, The City of Martinsville v. Purdue Pharma, L.P., et al. is moving forward in the Martinsville Circuit Court, after Judge Giles Carter Greer lifted the stay on proceedings in June 2022.  

The City of Martinsville’s lawsuit names more than 15 opioid manufacturers, distributors, and PBMs, alleging that each of these defendants contributed to the opioid crisis in Southwest Virginia. Drug manufacturers made the drugs and lied about their benefits and addiction risks to doctors and patients; wholesale distributors ignored their responsibilities to report and stop suspicious orders of opioids, resulting in drug diversion to the black market; and PBMs leveraged their role as middlemen to increase the flow of opioids into the marketplace.  

The defendants include manufacturers Abbott Laboratories, Teva Pharmaceuticals, Cephalon, Inc., Barr Laboratories, Inc., Actavis Pharma, Watson Laboratories, Actavis Pharma, Inc., Allergan PLC, KVK-Tech, Inc., Amneal Pharmaceuticals, Inc., and Mylan Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; distributors Henry Schein, Inc., General Injectables & Vaccines, Inc., Insource, Inc., CVS Health Corporation, CVS Pharmacy, Inc., Walgreens Boots Alliance, Inc., and Walgreen Co.; and PBMs Express Scripts, Inc., Caremark/CVS Health; United Health Group Inc., and OptumRx, Inc. 

Since the lawsuit was filed, nationwide settlements have been finalized with several defendants, including manufacturer Janssen Pharmaceuticals and distributors Amerisource Bergen Drug Corp., Cardinal Health Inc., and McKesson Corp. Additional nationwide settlements are pending with retail pharmacies CVS Health Corporation, Walgreen Co. and Walmart as well as manufacturers Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd and Allergan PLC. Additionally, bankruptcy proceedings involving Purdue Pharma, Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals, and Endo Pharmaceuticals are expected to provide financial recovery to states and local municipalities throughout the country, including Virginia. 

Martinsville has alleged violations of statutory and common law public nuisance, the Virginia Consumer Protection Act, fraud, common law conspiracy, negligence, and unjust enrichment. 

As recently as 2015, there were more opioid doses prescribed per person in Martinsville than in any other locality in the United States. The rate of reported Hepatitis C cases in Martinsville spiked from 51.3 cases per 100,000 adults in 2013 to 255.8 cases per 100,000 adults the following year. By 2017, the rate had climbed to 367.3 cases per 100,000 adults—a rate that is more than two-and-a-half times greater than the statewide rate. The rate of emergency department visits for opioid overdoses in Martinsville and its surrounding area was the third highest in Virginia over a five-month period beginning in September 2017, with more than 100 people being treated in Martinsville emergency rooms for opioid overdoses during that short period.  

The financial cost of the opioid epidemic has been tremendous for Martinsville. For example, the influx of opioids into Martinsville has led to a startling rise in the need for foster care and other child placement services in the City. Between 2014 and 2022, the City’s spending on foster care and related child-placement services increased more than 647 percent. The lawsuits aim to recover costs of this nature.

Attorneys Involved in the Case

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