LOS ANGELES — Orange County Superior Court Judge Kim G. Dunning has issued an order that opens the door for Los Angeles County to locally prosecute civil claims against opioid manufacturers.
The judge’s action comes after the County, acting to protect the health of its residents, moved to join a lawsuit that accuses opioid manufacturers of downplaying the addictive nature of opioids to drastically increase the number and length of opioid prescriptions simply to boost sales.
The County and the other plaintiffs contend that opioid manufacturers created a deceptive marketing scheme to promote the use of opioids to treat chronic pain, which led to the current nationwide opioid crisis. In 2014 alone, opioids generated $11 billion in revenue for drug manufacturers.
The County is taking this action to stem the public health crisis created by opioid addition. Prescription opioid and fentanyl overdoses kill approximately 350 people in Los Angeles County every year. Additionally, drug overdoses and deaths continue to rise in the County.
“These companies consistently put concerns about their own profits over considerations of public health. It was their own false and misleading statements that helped create skyrocketing opioid addiction and opioid-related overdoses,” said Sheila Kuehl, Chair of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.
Judge Dunning’s order permits Los Angeles County to join Orange County, Santa Clara County and the City of Oakland in a lawsuit alleging that Purdue Pharma, Johnson and Johnson, Janssen Pharmaceuticals and Actavis Pharmaceuticals have created a widespread public nuisance and have violated the state’s false advertising laws.
Los Angeles County, the state’s most populous, aims to hold opioid manufacturers accountable for the public health crisis they created in communities across L.A. County. The County is seeking to have the manufacturers fund drug education and rehabilitation efforts throughout the County, and to pay penalties for false advertising concerning the use of opioids for chronic pain.
“Someone dies almost every day in Los Angeles County from opioid addiction and misuse, and thousands more are suffering,” said Barbara Ferrer, PhD, MPH, MEd, Director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. “This lawsuit will make sure that the thousands of addictions to pain medication created by these defendants are brought into the light.”