Virginia Opioid Epidemic Lawsuits

Case Name: In Re: National Prescription Opiate Litigation

Case Type: Public Interest Litigation

Filed in: [Virginia Circuit Courts; U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio]

Docket: Case No.: 17-md-2804 (U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio)] 

Case Summary

Sanford Heisler Sharp, Kaufman & Canoles, P.C., and The Cicala Law Firm PLLC filed lawsuits on behalf of 59 Virginia cities and counties against Big Pharma drug manufacturers, wholesalers/distributors, retail pharmacies, and pharmacy benefit managers (“PBMs”) for knowingly creating and profiting from the opioid crisis that has devastated communities across the country. Together, the cities and counties constitute roughly 60% of Virginia’s total population.

The lawsuits were filed in state courts throughout Virginia during 2018-2020 against various defendants. With the exception of an active lawsuit on behalf of the City of Martinsville, Virginia, the 59 cases were transferred to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio and are currently consolidated as part of a multi-district litigation (“MDL”), where they will remain until further action is taken by MDL Judge Dan Polster.

The defendants included manufacturers Purdue Pharma, Abbott Laboratories, Endo Pharmaceuticals, Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals; Teva Pharmaceuticals, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Cephalon, Inc., Barr Laboratories, Inc., Actavis Pharma, Watson Laboratories, Actavis Pharma, Inc., Allergan PLC, Mylan Pharmaceuticals, Inc., and Indivior Inc; distributors AmerisourceBergen Drug Corp., Cardinal Health Inc., McKesson Corp., Henry Schein, Inc., General Injectables & Vaccines, Inc., and Insource, Inc.; retail pharmacies CVS Health Corporation, CVS Pharmacy, Inc., Walgreens Boots Alliance, Inc., Walgreen Co., Rite Aid Corp., and Walmart Inc.; and PBMs Express Scripts, Inc., Caremark/CVS Health, United Health Group Inc., and OptumRx, Inc.

Since the lawsuits were 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.

The lawsuits allege that each defendant contributed to the opioid crisis in cities and counties across Virginia – drug manufacturers made the opioids and lied about their benefits and addiction risks; wholesale distributors ignored their responsibilities to report and stop suspicious orders; and PBMs leveraged their role as middlemen to increase the flow of opioids into the marketplace. The 59 Virginia cities and counties allege violations of statutory and common law public nuisance, the Virginia Consumer Protection Act, fraud, common law conspiracy, negligence, and unjust enrichment.

Virginia has been impacted severely by the national opioid epidemic. In 2020, Virginia’s annual monetary losses resulting from opioid abuse reached nearly $3.5 billion. Opioid use and overdose deaths in Virginia have risen precipitously over the last two decades. From 2007 to 2021, Virginia’s annual rate of reported fatal opioid overdoses rose from 6.7 to 25.9 per 100,000 adults. Further, the rate of babies born in Virginia with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrom rose from 3.0 to 7.7 per 1,000 births, a study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association found.

Predictably, the influx of opioids into Virginia cities and counties also caused an unprecedented spike in crime, strains on law enforcement and courts, and a dramatic uptick in the need for foster and other child-placement services. Local governments have been forced to spend substantial and precious public monies to address all of the harms caused by the scourge of opioids that was intentionally unleashed in Virginia. The lawsuits aim to recover such costs and, critically, to abate the flow of these dangerous drugs into our communities.


Procedural History