Fla. county sues opioid manufacturers and pharmacies

The county filed suit in federal court against 19 companies in the opioid suit, including manufacturers such as Purdue Pharma, Cephalon and Teva Pharmaceuticals

By Larry Barszewski
Sun Sentinel

BROWARD COUNTY, Fla. — Broward County is going after opioid manufacturers it blames for the epidemic that has ravaged communities—and large pharmacy chains that it says were too ready to fill even questionable prescriptions for the drugs.

The county filed suit Monday in federal court against 19 companies in the opioid suit, including manufacturers such as Purdue Pharma, Cephalon and Teva Pharmaceuticals and pharmacies such as Walgreens, Walmart and CVS.

The complaint alleges deceptive and unfair trade practices, public nuisance, negligence, unjust enrichment and racketeering.

Broward, like many other local governments across the country, is suing or considering suing the companies because of the large costs incurred as the opioid epidemic taxes local police and emergency medical services. About 200 suits, including one by Delray Beach, have been filed nationally.

Palm Beach County this week selected a legal team to pursue its suit.

The prescriptions are for brand-name medications like OxyContin, Opana, Subsys, Fentora and Duragesic. Generic versions included oxycodone, methadone and fentanyl.

Overdose deaths have skyrocketed with the popularity of opioids, including heroin and super-potent synthetic versions of the drug.

"The overdose epidemic is estimated to have claimed more than 900 lives in South Florida in 2016 alone, including 582 drug deaths in Broward County," the suit said. By the end of 2016, 10 people a week were losing their lives in Broward County to overdoses and another 17 a week had non-fatal overdoses, with most related to heroin, fentanyl and other opioids, according to the suit.

As for the pharmacies, they "regularly filled opioid prescriptions that would have been deemed questionable" and they "have not adequately trained or supervised their employees at point of sale to investigate or report invalid prescriptions," it says.

The suit says the opioid manufacturers misled the public for more than 20 years about the dangers of opioid addiction and problems with its long-term use. It alleges fraudulent activity on their part, saying they paid "front organizations" that published false and misleading marketing materials.

The suit seeks to stop the manufacturers from making any further false or misleading statements regarding opioids and to assure that pharmacies will report suspicious prescriptions. The county is seeking more than $75,000 in damages—including punitive damages—for injuries it sustained because of the epidemic.

Drug makers have denied wrongdoing. With the onslaught of legal action against them, they say they have made efforts to stem diversion of their pain medications into the black market.

Copyright 2018 Sun Sentinel

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