St. Johns, other area counties sue Big Pharma over opioids

Governments across nation are suing over damages, cost of crisis

By Brittany Muller - Reporter

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. - St. Johns County and other Northeast Florida governments are asking the courts to hold drugmakers accountable for damages caused by the opioid crisis.

The counties of St. Johns, Clay, Bradford, Hamilton and Suwannee and the city of St. Augustine are joining with other states, counties and cities across the nation suing Big Pharma. The racketeering lawsuits are filed against about 20 manufacturers and marketers, including Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin; Cardinal Health, McKesson, several other drug distributors; and  CVS, Walgreens and Walmart.

St. Johns County said this case arises from the worst man-made epidemic in modern medical history, the misuse, abuse and over-prescription of opioids. 

"The opioid epidemic has harmed many and perhaps all communities around the country, including St. Johns County," County Attorney Patrick McCormack said. "The county has filed suit to reduce or prevent future harms and to recover monetary damages due to this public health tragedy."

The lawsuit is nearly 300 pages long and is asking for relief for costs including:

  • Health care and medical care
  • Training for first responders 
  • Mental health treatment, counseling and rehabilitation services
  • Treatment for infants born with opioid-related medical conditions
  • Losses caused by diminished property values in neighborhoods where the opioid epidemic has taken root

COURT DOCUMENT: St. Johns County vs. Purdue Pharma and 20 other firms
NEED HELP?  Opioid Nation Resource Center

The lawsuit says that from 1999 through 2016, overdoses killed more than 350,000 Americans. Of those, more than 200,000 died from opioids prescribed by doctors to treat pain. 

The suit takes aim at two primary causes: the marketing scheme and supply chain scheme. It said the opioid crisis stems from deceptive marketing strategies to sell more product.

By 2015, sales of opioids grew to about $9.6 billion, according to the suit. The county said it's holding Big Pharma responsible for the opioid crisis, which it says those companies have caused. 

News4Jax asked Purdue Pharma, the largest producer of opioids, for a statement but has not heard back.

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