Delray Beach filed a federal lawsuit Thursday against some of the largest drug-makers and distributors in the country, holding them responsible, in part, for an opioid epidemic that has cost local taxpayers millions of dollars.
The city spent about $3 million responding to more than 700 opioid calls last year alone, the lawsuit claims. Every overdose costs the city about $2,000 in manpower and lifesaving material.
Delray also took a financial hit hiring mental health workers, paying employees overtime, buying and repairing equipment for first responders and equipping responders with an expensive but necessary supply of the overdose antidote drug naloxone.
“Cities, like ours, face immeasurable human tragedies and escalating, multi-million dollar fiscal impacts due, in part, to the negligence and fraud of opioid manufacturers and distributors who reaped billions while knowingly, if not intentionally, spawning the current and next generation of opioid addicts,” Mayor Cary Glickstein said in a statement.
Delray Beach is suing for costs, losses and damages for injuries sustained by the city.
The lawsuit targets some of the largest drug-makers and distributors in the country, including McKesson, AmerisourceBergen and Cardinal Health — among the top 15 companies in the Fortune 500.
The lawsuit also names as defendants Purdue Pharma, Cephalon, Teva Pharmaceuticals, Endo International, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Insys and Mallinckrodt.
Drug manufacturers “engaged in a concerted, coordinated strategy” to shift the way doctors and patients think about pain management in order to maximize profits and bolster a multi-billion dollar industry, the lawsuit reads.
The lawsuit claims these manufacturers borrowed from “the tobacco industry’s playbook” by using disingenuous marketing. The lawsuit itself seems to borrow from the Big Tobacco era, when government entities, Florida included, successfully sued tobacco companies for falsely marketing their products leading to widespread illness.
“We look forward to our day in court to redress the financial damages our taxpayers have been forced to shoulder,” Glickstein said.
These drug-manufacturers paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to Delray Beach physicians to market oxycodone, a highly addictive generic painkiller and the nation’s best-selling drug, the lawsuit states.
Purdue, for example, paid $23,000 to Delray Beach doctors for speaking gigs, consulting and other services between 2013 and 2016, the complaint reports based on publicly available data. Janssen paid Delray doctors more than $77,000, while Mallinckrodt paid them more than $110,400, according to the lawsuit.
The pharmaceutical companies understated the addictive nature of oxycodone, the lawsuit says.
And Delray Beach, widely known as the recovery capital of the country, has borne the brunt of the ensuing epidemic.
Delray Beach claims these drug-makers violated state’s deceptive and unfair trade practices act; public nuisance, negligence and unjust enrichment laws; and violated the state’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, also known as RICO and patterned after the federal law originally aimed at mobsters so law enforcement can crack down on organized crime groups.
The lawsuit demands a jury trial. It isn’t clear how long the lawsuit will last.
Other cities, such as Chicago, Ill. and Dayton, Oh., have filed similar ongoing lawsuits, but Delray Beach is the first in Florida.
The city is represented by Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd, a national law group with an office in Boca Raton.
The law firm anticipates other governing bodies will join as plaintiffs.
“Our firm is committed to holding opioid manufacturers and distributors accountable for their fraudulent marketing of opioids, which has fueled the worst drug scourge ever,” said Mark J. Dearman, a partner at Robbins Geller.