Page County, VA Opioid Epidemic Lawsuit

Case Type: Public Interest Litigation

Companies: Opioid Manufacturers, Distributors, and Pharmacy Benefit Managers

Page 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.

Page 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 Page County—drug manufacturers make the drugs and mispresent 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., and McKesson Corp.; and PBMs Express Scripts, Inc., CVS Health; United Health Group Inc., and OptumRx, Inc.

The harmful impact of opioids in Page County cannot be overstated. The most recent publicly available data shows that 32.1 of every 1,000 babies born in Page County in 2016 suffered from neonatal abstinence syndrome. That is nearly five times higher than the statewide rate of 6.7 cases per 1,000 births. In 2011, Page County reported zero Hepatitis C cases. By 2016, its case rate was 367.1 cases per 100,000 people, which was nearly triple the statewide rate.

The financial cost of the opioid epidemic has been tremendous for the County. For example, Page County’s jail is overcrowded with inmates that are incarcerated due to illegal drug use and other criminal activity that is highly correlated to prescription drug abuse. The number of children placed in foster care in the County has skyrocketed in recent years due to the effects that opioid addiction has had on households in the County. The lawsuit aims to recover these types of costs and costs associated with the purchase of opioids prescribed to County employees.

“We are pleased to represent Page 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. Page 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. No local government wants to have to file a lawsuit. Local governments have enough to do already, providing services to the public on tight budgets. But this man-made crisis is costing Page County and communities like it dearly – and so Page County must respond. Those responsible for this epidemic – those who profited from it – must be held accountable for its costs.”