Maryland Counties Take Legal Action Against Opioid Manufacturers and Distributors

Several counties in the state of Maryland, including Baltimore City itself, are suing the manufacturers and distributors of powerful drugs used to treat pain. The complaint revolves around the assertion that these companies have contributed significantly to exacerbating the opioid crisis that has ravaged Maryland in particular.

The governor has also made it a top priority in 2018 to tackle the opioid epidemic in Maryland. The main component of that effort is to involve legal action against opioid manufacturers. The governor has directed Attorney General Brian Frosh to move forward with action and file a lawsuit.

The allegations against big pharma

Baltimore City, along with five counties (Baltimore, Anne Arundel, Cecil, Montgomery, and Hartford), are claiming that the pharmaceutical industry exacerbated the opioid epidemic by minimizing or concealing the risks of addiction associated with its products. They are also asserting that these companies marketed their products to medical professionals and the general public in an aggressive manner with the knowledge of their highly addictive nature.

These counties and Baltimore City are suing the drug manufacturers in order to recover their costs of responding to and dealing with this epidemic over a number of years.

The movement to sue pharmaceutical manufacturers is not limited to the state of Maryland. More than 200 cities and counties in the United States have already filed or plan to file suit against these entities.

Rundown of recent local actions taken against big pharma in Maryland

Some of the latest actions taken by jurisdictions in the state of Maryland against the drug makers are mentioned below. Please note: the number of deaths listed in parentheses are third quarter 2017 opioid related intoxication deaths provided by the Maryland Behavioral Health Administration.

Baltimore City (523 deaths)

The City filed a lawsuit in Baltimore Circuit Court on January 31, 2018. Named in the lawsuit are five pharmaceutical companies and three distributors. Two doctors operating pain clinics are also named. The city of Baltimore is asking the court to mandate these entities and persons to change their practices in terms of promoting and providing these dangerous painkilling drugs.

City solicitor Andre Davis, who will be highly involved in the litigation effort, has stated, “The allegation is that they knowingly marketed opioids in ways that they knew were harmful. They knew would be distractive of lives. They knew would create addictive cravings and the consequences that flow from that.”

According to Davis, any financial award obtained through these litigation efforts will be applied toward costs associated with healthcare and law enforcement activities.

Baltimore County (238 deaths)

On January 8, Baltimore County announced its plan to file a lawsuit in federal district court. The lawsuit is to seek financial damages to pay for the County’s expenses to date in combating the opioid addiction crisis.

Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz said in a statement, “The opioid crisis has led to a significant increase of overdoses from heroin and prescription drug abuse. We believe that the pharmaceutical industry pressured and cajoled physicians into prescribing opioids for chronic pain, and vastly misrepresented the risk of addiction. The desire to increase profits on the part of drug companies is a leading cause of our nation’s health crisis, and we must fight back.”

Anne Arundel County (145 deaths)

The first County in Maryland to file a lawsuit against opioid manufacturers and distributors was Arundel County on Jan. 3. The manufacturers and distributors listed in the legal action include:

  • Purdue Pharma (OxyContin manufacture)
  • Endo Pharmaceuticals (Percocet manufacture)
  • Jensen Pharmaceuticals
  • Johnson & Johnston
  • Insys Therapeutics (Manufacture of Subsys – sublingual spray of fentanyl)
  • Teva Pharmaceuticals

Local prescribers targeted in the lawsuit include those that have been previously targeted by the State’s Attorney General’s Office for inappropriate drug prescribing practices.

The lawsuit also names physicians who have practices based in Glen Burnie, Gambrills, and Annapolis.

Cecil County (43 deaths)

Cecil County introduced its lawsuit in federal court on Jan. 5. The lawsuit is targeted against 20 manufacturers and 14 subsidiaries of large pharmaceutical companies. These include Johnson & Johnson, Endo, Allegran, Purdue, Teva, and Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals. In addition, three major wholesale distributors are listed – Cardinal Health, McKesson, and AmerisourceBergen.

The County is claiming that these powerful pharmaceutical companies did not uphold their duty according to state and federal laws to prevent the diversion of drugs for illegal purposes. As such, Cecil is one of the first counties in the nation to utilize the Violations of Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) in one of these lawsuits.

At Plaxen Adler Muncy, P.A., we understand firsthand how destructive the improper prescribing of dangerous drugs can be.  If you have a question about any personal injury or medical malpractice matter call our office today at 410-730-7737 or complete our contact form.