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County files suit against opioid manufacturers

countysealROCKVILLE — Montgomery County is suing 14 manufactures and distributors of prescription opioids as part of the county’s efforts to combat the growing nationwide opioid addiction crisis, County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) announced Wednesday. Attorneys filed the suit Wednesday in federal court because it is the most appropriate venue to address the devastating effect the opioid addiction crisis has had on the County.

“The opioid crisis is wreaking severe damage on individuals and communities throughout our great nation – and Montgomery County is not immune,” Leggett said. “Just ask the first responders in our Fire & Rescue Service and our Police. Ask our front-line personnel in Health & Human Services. We are talking about addiction, death, broken lives and broken families.”

In December the County announced it had retained the law firm of Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd LLP as outside counsel in the County’s suit against the opioid manufacturers and distributors. Mark Dearman, a partner with Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd, said opioid manufacturers and distributors have broken laws against false advertising by promoting their drugs as less addicting and less dangerous than they actually are, and have also violated federal controlled substance laws by not reporting suspicious sales.

“Robins Geller is here to assist Montgomery County with that task,” Dearman said. “We are here to assist in the abatement of the harm and devastation that this county experienced and other cities have experienced.”

 The County has filed suit against 14 opioid manufacturers and distributors around the world: Purdue Pharma LP; Cephalon, Inc.; Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd.; Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc.; Endo International PLC; Endo Health Solutions Inc.; Endo Pharmaceuticals Inc.; Jansen Pharmaceuticals, Inc. of; Insys Therapeutics, Inc. of: Mallinckrodt PLC of the; Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals of; AmerisourceBergen Corporation; Cardinal Health, Inc. and McKesson Corporation.

Dearman said the County is seeking money for damages from the opioid crisis, but does not have a particular number in mind, saying the main point of the lawsuit is to get opioid manufacturers and distributors to change their behavior.

Montgomery County is the latest of many jurisdictions across the country that have filed similar lawsuits against opioid manufacturers and distributors, including counties and cities in Ohio, Mississippi, South Carolina, Missouri, New Mexico, Arizona and Illinois. Leggett said because opioid addiction has caused severe financial hardships for the County, particularly with the budgets for police, fire and rescue, and health and human services, the lawsuit is a way for the County to be compensated for the increased expenditures related to the crisis.

Helen Najar, a Bethesda resident who lost her daughter Kelly O’Connor to a heroin overdose after developing an addition to painkillers, said she believes the cost of the opioid crisis should be paid by the manufacturers and distributors of opioid medications and not the County.

“It’s about time we make the pharmaceuticals accountable,” Najar said.

Najar, who is a member of Surviving Our Ultimate Loss, a group of people who lost family members to drug overdoses, said membership has skyrocketed due to the increasing number of overdoses from opioids.

“Our group has more than double in size since I joined only a year and half ago,” she said. “We continue to get new members every month.”

Montgomery County’s lawsuit is not the first attempt to bring attention to the opioid crisis in Maryland. In May, Gov. Larry Hogan (R) declared a “state of emergency” in response to the opioid epidemic across the state. In the speech, Hogan announced the state would spend an additional $50 million over the next five years to combat the crisis through prevention and treatment.

@neal_earley

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