New York City sues 'Big Pharma' for $500m for fueling opioid epidemic
New York City on Tuesday sued the makers of prescription painkillers such as OxyContin, Percocet and fentanyl that have played a central role in the opioid crisis killing tens of thousands across the nation.
Related: 'I don’t know how they live with themselves' – artist Nan Goldin? takes on the billionaire family behind OxyContin
The mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio, and his wife Chirlane McCray, who leads the city’s efforts on mental health and drug addiction, announced a $500m lawsuit “to hold manufacturers and distributors to account”, filed in New York state supreme court.
“More New Yorkers have died from opioid overdoses than car crashes and homicides combined in recent years. ‘Big Pharma’ helped to fuel this epidemic by deceptively peddling these dangerous drugs and hooking millions,” De Blasio said. A record 1,000-plus people died in New York from opioid-related overdoses in 2016, the mayor reported.
More than 60 federal lawsuits of a similar nature filed by cities and counties across the US are now being handled collectively by a federal judge in Ohio, Dan Polster.
There are indications he may also take on other related cases that have been filed in state courts, as legal experts talk of a “tidal wave” of litigation, potentially setting up a huge legal showdown with the industry.
New York City on Tuesday sued several companies, led by Purdue Pharma, the family-owned creator of OxyContin the original brand of slow-release, powerful prescription narcotics that ushered in the crisis 20 years ago with aggressive marketing campaigns and insufficient warnings about addiction and abuse.
Additional defendants include Endo, which makes the painkiller Percocet; Cephalon, which makes the fentanyl lollipop-type lozenge Actiq; Janssen, which makes fentanyl patches; and other opioid makers, including Johnson & Johnson, Watson, Teva and Allergan.
The singers Prince and Tom Petty had fentanyl in their systems when they died of accidental overdoses in 2015 and 2017 respectively, having previously become addicted to prescription opioids, and the art photographer Nan Goldin slammed Purdue in the Guardian on Monday after revealing she is in recovery from opioid addiction.
Chirlane McCray cited “the greedy and reckless behavior of these companies” for “tearing apart families”.