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City of Jacksonville sues 'big pharma' for opioid deaths, costs

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The city of Jacksonville is suing some of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the United States, claiming that manufacturers, distributors and executives are all responsible for the city's deadly opioid epidemic.

The 144-page lawsuit "for damages and injunctive relief" last Tuesday claims over a dozen opioid manufacturers, including Purdue Pharma -- which makes OxyContin -- Teva Pharmaceuticals and Insys Therapeutics, four distributors and five individuals each played a role in the opioid epidemic that has cost lives, as well as resources of rescue and medical personnel saving people who had overdosed.

The 11 counts against manufacturers, distributors or executives in the lawsuit range from common law fraud and negligent misrepresentation to deceptive and unfair trade practices, mail and wire fraud 

According to the lawsuit, John Kapoor, the founder, former chairman and CEO of Insys, was indicted on Oct. 24 in federal court in Boston. He and co-conspirators are accused of paying kickbacks to doctors to write large numbers of prescriptions. Florida was a targeted state in that plan, and Subsys, a fentanyl-based pain medication, was part of some of the claims. Jacksonville has similar claims. 

The city does not list an exact amount it is seeking in the lawsuit, but based upon the money the city has already spent to fight the opioid epidemic, it could run into the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Jacksonville Fire Rescue Department spent $4.5 million transporting overdose victims in 2016 alone. Last year, the city's funded over $1 million for a program trying to get opioid addicts into treatment.

In past suits not affiliated with Jacksonville, some of the same companies named in this lawsuit have paid out millions for fines. 

McKesson, the largest wholesale distributor in the United States, agreed in January to pay a $150 million fine to U.S. Department of Justice for violations. In December 2016, Cardinal agreed to a $34 million fine to resolve allegations that it failed to report to the Drug Enforcement Administration.

McKeeson, Cardinal and ABC have each been investigated and fined by the DEA for failing to:

  • Operate its mandatory internal oversight system in good faith.
  • Report suspicious orders to the DEA.
  • Halt the shipment of "suspicious orders for controlled substances" when they were discovered.


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