Montgomery County, VA Opioid Epidemic Lawsuit

Case Type: Public Interest Litigation

Companies: Opioid Manufacturers, Distributors, and Pharmacy Benefit Managers

Montgomery County, Virginia, represented by Sanford Heisler Sharp Kaufman & Canoles, P.C., and The Cicala Law Firm PLLC today initiated legal action against opioid manufacturers, distributors, and pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) for their role in creating the public health emergency caused by prescription opioids.

Montgomery County filed the lawsuit in state court against more than 15 opioid manufacturers, distributors, and PBMs — including pharmaceutical titan Purdue Pharma and worldwide distributor McKesson. The lawsuit alleges that each defendant contributes to the opioid crisis in Montgomery County— drug manufacturers make the drugs and misrepresent the truth about their benefits and addiction risks to doctors and patients; wholesale distributors ignore their responsibilities to report and stop suspicious orders of opioids leading to drug diversion to the black market; and PBMs leverage their role as middlemen to increase the flow of opioids into the marketplace. The County has alleged violations of statutory and common law public nuisance, the Virginia Consumer Protection Act, fraud, common law conspiracy, negligence, and unjust enrichment.

The defendants include manufacturers Purdue Pharma, Abbott Laboratories, Endo Pharmaceuticals, Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals; Teva Pharmaceuticals, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Cephalon, Inc., Barr Laboratories, Inc., Actavis Pharma, Watson Laboratories, Inc., Allergan PLC, and Insys Therapeutics; distributors AmerisourceBergen Drug Corp., Cardinal Health Inc., McKessonCorp., and Henry Schein, Inc.; and PBMs Express Scripts, Inc., CVS Health; United Health Group Inc., and OptumRx, Inc.

The harmful impact of opioids in Montgomery County cannot be overstated. The rate of neonatal abstinence syndrome—which results from opioids being used during pregnancy—in Montgomery County has been higher than the statewide rate in Virginia during the entire course of the opioid epidemic. The rate of overdose deaths in Montgomery County has been consistently rising since the 1990s, and by 2016, the rate at which citizens of Montgomery County were dying of drug overdoses every year was three times higher than the rate at which they were dying in 1999.

The financial cost of the opioid epidemic has been tremendous for the County. For example, Montgomery County is paying exorbitant amounts to house inmates that are incarcerated due to illegal drug use and other criminal activity that is highly correlated to prescription drug abuse. Furthermore, the number of children placed in foster care in the County has risen in recent years due to the effects that opioid addiction has had on households in the County.

Chris Tuck, Chairman of the Montgomery County Board of Supervisors, stated, “These defendants have gotten rich pushing addictive drugs to our citizens, while they have left Montgomery County on the hook to pay the bill for incarceration, law enforcement, foster care, and many other costs that were predictable results of their actions. We owe it to our residents to do everything we can to recover some of the costs created by the preventable epidemic the defendants caused.” The lawsuit aims to recover these types of costs.

April N. DeMotts, Vice-Chair of the Board of Supervisors, added, “The costs that Montgomery County has incurred as a result of the opioid epidemic were entirely predictable, and entirely preventable, but these Defendants chose to put profits before their responsibilities, and they did nothing to prevent the disaster they created from harming Montgomery County.”

“We are pleased to represent Montgomery County as it seeks to hold the defendants accountable for their reprehensible actions and recover the funds the County has spent to address the impact of the opioid crisis. Montgomery County’s citizens deserve justice for the harms inflicted upon them by the defendants and our respective firms are proud to take on this fight on their behalf,” said Kevin H. Sharp of Sanford Heisler Sharp.

Joanne Cicala added, “The opioid epidemic is not accidental. It is not a natural disaster. It is a man-made crisis. And worse – the companies that did this were not just seeking to build market share – they knew they were creating addicts. And now their scheme is costing Montgomery County and communities like it dearly, in so many ways. It is fair for Montgomery County to respond by seeking to hold those responsible for the epidemic – those who continue to profit from it –accountable for its costs.”