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Cook v. Big Pharma in opioid battle

Thursday, December 28, 2017
Chicago Daily Law Bulletin
by Jordyn Reiland

Cook County is the latest county in Illinois to file a lawsuit against the nation’s largest pharmaceutical companies in an attempt to recover costs associated with battling an opioid epidemic.

The complaint, filed in Cook County Circuit Court Wednesday, alleges that aggressive marketing campaigns by opioid manufacturers have contributed to a rise in overdoses and opioid-related deaths in Cook County.

The suit seeks compensatory and punitive damages for the millions of dollars in costs incurred annually, such as the rapidly increasing number of overdose patients being treated by Cook County Health and Hospitals System, opioid treatment and prevention programs operated by the county at the Cook County Jail and an increase in the number of opioid-related death autopsies performed.

In 2015, 647 people died from drug overdose deaths involving opioids in Cook County, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office.

As of the beginning of December, there have been 847 opioid-related deaths this year in Cook County.

The defendants include such big names in the pharmaceutical world as Abbott Laboratories, Purdue Pharmaceuticals, Johnson & Johnson, Endo International and various corporate holdings of the companies.

Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle said the lawsuit is a good start to “aggressively confront one of the root causes of the nationwide epidemic.”

“Opioid deaths in Cook County are growing at an alarming rate. This is a public health crisis affecting nearly every community in the [c]ounty for which we must find a solution,” Preckwinkle said in a news release.

Cook County State’s Attorney Kimberly M. Foxx said those who have been complicit in the creation of this epidemic should be held accountable.

On March 22, 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recognized opioid abuse as a “public health crisis” that has a “profound impact on individuals, families and communities across our country,” lawsuit says.

Opioids contributed to nearly 1,200 overdose deaths in Illinois in 2016, according to data from the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Just last week, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry and Will Counties filed similar suits. In 2015, those counties combined saw an estimated 237 opioid-related deaths.

Cook and the other counties are being represented by Paul J. Hanly Jr., Amy E. Garrett and Sarah Burns of Simmons Hanly Conroy, LLC and Peter J. Flowers, Michael W. Lenert and Ryan P. Theriault of Meyers & Flowers LLC.

Hanly said he and Flowers represent between 15 and 20 Illinois counties and he represents another 100 across the country.

The defendants’ attorney information was not available Wednesday.

The case is The People of the State of Illinois and Cook County, Illinois v. Purdue Pharma L.P.; Purdue Pharma Inc.; The Purdue Frederick Company Inc.; Abbott Laboratories; Abbott Laboratories Inc.; Teva Pharmaceuticals Inc.; Cephalon Inc.; Johnson & Johnson; Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc.; Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc. N/K/A Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc.; Janssen Pharmaceutica Inc. N/K/A Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc.; Endo Health Solutions Inc.; Endo Pharmaceuticals Inc.; Dr. Perry Fine; Dr. Scott Fishman; and Dr. Lynn Webster 17 L 013180.

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