Florida Sues Drug Manufacturers, Distributors

May 16, 2018

Declaring that she “wasn’t scared to take them on,” Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi filed a civil suit Tuesday accusing five of the nation’s largest opioid manufacturers and four distributors of causing the opioid crisis that is killing an average 15 Floridians daily.

“We are very proud because we have just filed one of the most comprehensive lawsuits in the country on behalf of the state of Florida regarding the opioid crisis,” Bondi, standing in the lunchroom of a recovery center in Tampa, said.

Bondi, who is seeking to recover “all measure of damages allowable,” predicted a settlement with the defendants could be in the “billions.”

Five other states on Tuesday also filed lawsuits against drug maker Purdue Pharma, but Bondi called Florida’s challenge “one of the most comprehensive suits in the country.”

The lawsuit alleges that manufacturers Purdue; Endo Pharmaceuticals; Janssen Pharmaceuticals; Cephalon, Inc.; and Allergan plc — and their related companies — and distributors AmerisourceBergen Drug Corporation; McKesson Corporation;  Cardinal Health, Inc.; and Mallinckrod LLC violated the state’s unfair and deceptive practices laws and Florida’s criminal racketeering laws.

The manufacturers “promoted misrepresentations about the use of opioids to physicians, other prescribers, and consumers that were designed to increase opioid prescriptions and opioid use,” the 54-page complaint, filed in Pasco County, reads.

The lawsuit also accuses the manufacturing companies of using “front organizations” to promote opioids and of paying alleged medical experts, called “key opinion leaders,” to publish articles that promoted the use of opioids to treat pain but omitted information regarding the risks.

Other alleged misconduct includes misleading veterans about the dangers of mixing opioids with benzodiazepine, a drug commonly prescribed for post-traumatic stress disorder.

Distributors are accused of filling suspicious orders and failing to properly assess customers before filling the orders, among other things.

“These dangerous acts and practices have devastating consequences as you all know,” Bondi said. “It’s time the defendants paid for the pain and the destruction they have caused.”

As the opioid crisis has worsened, hundreds of local governments around the country have already sued drug manufacturers.

After trying to work out a settlement, a federal judge in Ohio last month announced plans to move ahead with three trials in 2019.

Bondi, noting that Florida is the third largest state, said she wanted to pursue separate litigation.

A bevy of law enforcement officials, as well as Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, House Speaker Richard Corcoran, among others, joined Bondi for Tuesday’s announcement regarding the legal action.

Putnam, the leading Republican gubernatorial candidate, said he supports the lawsuit and credited Bondi’s efforts to eradicate prescription drug abuse.

Putnam said he has discovered “a sad recurring theme” in his travels around the state.

“In every community, they’ve had to add staff to the medical examiner’s office and add space to the morgue. That’s how serious the opioid crisis is,” he said, adding that proceeds from the lawsuit can be used to help fund treatment.

But state Rep. Sean Shaw criticized Bondi, who has served for attorney general for eight years, for waiting too long to challenge the drug makers and distributers.

Shaw, a Tampa Democrat who is running to succeed Bondi as attorney general, called the lawsuit “too little too late for the families in our state who have been devastated by a preventable epidemic had action been take years ago before we reached this tipping point.”

In 2016, heroin caused 952 deaths in Florida, fentanyl caused 1,390 deaths, oxycodone caused 723 deaths, and hydrocodone caused 245 deaths, according to a legislative staff analysis of a measure aimed at combatting opioid addiction. More than 4,000 babies were born addicted to opioids in Florida in 2016, an increase of over 1,000 percent from a decade ago, according to the Florida Department of Children and Families.

Those statistics led Gov. Rick Scott last year to declare a public health emergency due to opioids.

Earlier this year, lawmakers passed a bill that, among other things, places limits on prescriptions that doctors can write for treatment of acute pain. Doctors in many cases are limited to writing prescriptions for three-day supplies, though they can prescribe up to seven-day supplies of controlled substances if “medically necessary.” Cancer patients, people who are terminally ill, palliative care patients and those who suffer from major trauma are exempt from the limits.

In the complaint filed Tuesday, Bondi enlisted assistance from five different law firms, including two Panhandle firms — Santa Rosa Beach-based Drake Martin Law Firm and Panama City-based Harrison, Rivard, Duncan & Buzzett — she worked with on a lawsuit filed in response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The litigation resulted in a $2 billion settlement.

by Kristine Sexton, The News Service of Florida. Image courtesy The Florida Channel.


15 Responses to “Florida Sues Drug Manufacturers, Distributors”

  1. john groton on May 17th, 2018 12:05 pm

    There seems to be an abundance of self-styled experts voicing their “facts”. I strongly suggest they walk in the shoes of those persons afflicted with monumental pain and suffering before rendering their opinion. I have had 4 major spinal surgeries. Nerve damage still causes constant debilitating pain and neuropathy. Opioids only take the edge off the pain. They make it possible for me to have some limited mobility and perform basic functions. I am aware we have a problem of misuse/abuse of medications. Would it not be more prudent to severely punish persons found to be abusing opioids; especiallly those providing drugs for recreational use, than to issue a blanket restriction on all use? Please believe me, anyone requiring prescription pain medication on a constant basis does not enjoy the recurring trips to the doctor to obtain the prescription and then to the pharmacist to have it filled. Most of us would love to see a safe, legal and productive alternative materialize. Thank you for taking the time to read these comments. They are strictly my opiiions. I am not a expert.

  2. Concerned on May 17th, 2018 8:55 am

    Ms Bondi,you have know idea about someone who has to take pain meds,when you’ve had surgery to fix problems,and still have to take pain medication, now you are trying to control what a patient needs,there’s a difference between someone who has to use it and the ones who abuse it.I hope and pray for people like me,don’t have to pay for the people who abuse opioids.

  3. mike on May 17th, 2018 3:34 am

    good going, General Pam! those mean old drug companies twisted the arms of all the dopeyoids to misuse them bad old drugs in a manner not as instructed in their docs prescriptions and must be punished! how dare they try to make something to relieve pain.

    treatment is more profitable than a cure, so no cures. drug companies are like ghosts, you can see right thru them. :)

  4. np630ss on May 16th, 2018 8:13 pm

    This is frivolous litigation. She’s just trying to make a name for herself. I doubt it will make it to court as a Supreme Court ruling states manufacturing can not be sued for miss use of their product. Only Doctors can prescribe these things. They are NOT peddled on street corners unless they are stolen. This entire debacle is blown out of proportion by the media. All they have managed to do is stir up vote hungry politicians and cause chronic pain sufferers misery.

  5. Big Mac on May 16th, 2018 7:43 pm

    Hey Chris, I don’t care if you call these addicts out but when you start going after my beloved Mcd’s, you have gone too far Sir.

  6. Tabby on May 16th, 2018 6:55 pm

    PS……And here are all of you cheering it on. Similar to why at a jury trial the state seeks the oldest, whitest, female juror it can get. Because traditionally, they’ll have the mindset of “oh the state wouldn’t lie, their govt officials.” Yea, ok.

  7. Tabby on May 16th, 2018 6:52 pm

    Crooks going after crooks. Cool. Yet the people who actually suffer will still suffer while the crooks (State of Florida) line their pockets personally, get their offices remodeled publicly, and spend the rest on useless crap that has nothing to do with the reason they got the money to start with.

  8. Michele on May 16th, 2018 1:49 pm

    unfortunately I am one of those that need the meds for chronic pain.. nsaids don’t help and in fact have torn my stomach up.. this whole opiod thing is messing up people that really need it.. people that suffer from migraines and nothing else helps them are losing their meds.. veterans that need them aren’t being given them anymore.. I know people that were taking only one pain pill a day and those got taken away.. something that worked is no longer available or rather not allowed.. I can understand the people that take several a day and different types a day in fact.. but for the few of us that honestly only take less than 4 a day have been hurt by all this.. nothing else works.. and yes, I have tried everything..

  9. TUMom on May 16th, 2018 1:40 pm

    WELL SAID CHRIS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  10. chris on May 16th, 2018 11:45 am

    “some doctor in Gulf Breeze gave her opioids she didn’t need.” Was she forced to take them? Addiction is a problem but the solution starts with the addict. With your logic we should sue McDonalds because people eat junk food and die of clogged arteries.

  11. Pat on May 16th, 2018 11:42 am

    Doesn’t anyone ever wonder what’s in all those pills? I tend to believe the Pharmaceutical companies are adding other components to these medications to make people more addicted. Kind of like the tobacco companies did with cigarettes???

  12. anne 1of2 on May 16th, 2018 10:00 am

    OK, so where are the rest of the attorneys? Ask your DR what % of his/her paycheck comes from the drug companies. Meds are still drugs, all day long. Pray for me, do not prey on me, my mantra.

  13. Eileen on May 16th, 2018 8:58 am

    Go after pill mill doctors, too! My neighbor overdosed and died because some doctor in Gulf Breeze gave her opioids she didn’t need.

  14. Native on May 16th, 2018 7:35 am

    Good for you. Opioid abuse is a public health emergency that is destroying families. There is really no good use for these addictive drugs and they need to be eliminated. These manufacturers, and the subsequent heroin dealers who fill the void when the prescription drugs run out, are murdering people daily with impunity. Make them pay!

    Now, it’s time to wage war against the illicit opioid (heroin) dealers. They are murderers, nothing less, and need to be prosecuted as such.

  15. Avis on May 16th, 2018 4:51 am

    Glad to see it happen. Those greedy criminals have caused immeasurable misery with their love of money and reckless disregard for humanity. They should be brought to their knees financially.

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