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Court refuses to dismiss lawsuits against opioid manufacturers

A New York State Supreme Court Judge has refused to dismiss lawsuits against several large opioid manufacturers in one of the earliest decisions to come out of the cases brought by local governments over the prescription painkillers.

In two rulings on Monday (June 18), Suffolk County Supreme Court Justice Jerry Garguilo rejected motions to dismiss brought by Purdue Pharma, Endo Health Solutions, Teva Pharmaceuticals, Allergan, Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Insys Therapeutics Inc.

“The plaintiffs allege the manufacturer defendants employed assiduously crafted, multi-pronged marketing strategies that targeted the general public … as part of their respective campaigns to change the perception of the risks associated with prescription opioids and to de-stigmatize and normalize the long-term use of opioids for chronic nonmalignant pain,” he wrote.

Therefore, Garguilo allowed cases brought by various New York counties to go forward alleging violations of New York’s fraud and false advertising laws, as well as public nuisance and other claims.



One such case was recently brought by Schuyler County. In August 2017, the County Legislature voted to retain the firm of Napoli Shkolnik to work with Schuyler County Attorney Steven Getman, as special counsel, to bring an action against the manufacturers and distributers of prescription opiates for damages to the County. In May of this year, Getman filed a nearly 250-page Summons and Complaint for damages to the County arising out of the fraudulent and negligent marketing and distribution of opiates in the County. That case was transferred to Suffolk County Courts shortly thereafter, to join other cases brought by various New York state counties.

“We are obviously pleased by the court’s decision,” Getman said. “This is one of the first decisions to address ‘big pharma’s’ attempts to dismiss these cases, and the court issued an exhaustive opinion, covering many of the issues raised throughout the state, including in our case. We consider it valuable precedent.”

“Schuyler County’s lawsuit will move forward to seek reimbursement for its expenses related to the opioid crisis as well as to provide the County with financial aid to fight addiction, overdoses, drug-related crimes and drug deaths,” Getman stated.

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According to Schuyler County Administrator Tim O’Hearn, the lawsuit was filed at no risk to the County, as Napoli Shkolnik will work on contingency basis that will cover all costs associated with the lawsuit.

“By going forward with litigation, the County Legislature hopes to lessen the burden to taxpayers and hold manufacturers and distributors responsible for their role in the opioid epidemic,” O’Hearn said.

Schuyler County is one of several New York municipalities to file a lawsuit against the manufacturers and distributors of opioid pain killers. At least 14 counties across New York are suing pharmaceutical companies for what they’re claiming are deceptive marketing practices.

In addition, in February, New York State officials filed a lawsuit against Insys Therapeutics, Inc., alleging that Insys deceptively promoted prescription opiate Subsys for unsafe uses and violated state law by downplaying drug’s addictive risks.

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