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Calcasieu, four other parishes sue opioid - KATC.com | Continuous News Coverage | Acadiana-Lafayette

Calcasieu, four other parishes sue opioid manufacturers

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Calcasieu Parish Sheriff Tony Mancuso has joined four other sheriffs to sue opioid manufacturers.

Laborde Earles, a Louisiana law firm, filed the suits today on behalf of Mancuso and sheriffs in Washington, Ouachita, Sabine and Vernon parishes against pharmaceutical companies and physicians over the alleged fraudulent marketing of prescription opioid painkillers that has led to increased crime and delinquency across Louisiana.

In the complaint, the sheriffs are asking for compensatory and punitive damages, which they claim amount to millions of dollars spent annually to combat drug-related crimes and the societal economic burden of opioid abuse created by the drug companies’ deceptive marketing campaign that fabricates the safety and efficacy of long-term opioid use. Simmons Hanly Conroy, one of the nation’s leading law firms focused on consumer protection and mass tort actions, which is spearheading similar lawsuits in other states across the country, has joined Laborde Earles as co-counsel in the cases.

The defendants in the lawsuit are: Purdue Pharma L.P.; Purdue Pharma, Inc.; The Purdue Frederick Company, Inc.; Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc.; Cephalon, Inc.; Johnson & Johnson; Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; Janssen Pharmaceutica, Inc.; Endo Health Solutions Inc.; Endo Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; Dr. Randall Brewer; Dr. Perry Fine; Dr. Scott Fishman and Dr. Lynn Webster.

The Louisiana firm filed similar lawsuits on behalf of sheriffs in Avoyelles, Jefferson Davis, Rapides and Lafayette Parishes last month.

In a separate action, the Louisiana Department of Health has also sued the major pharmaceutical companies, alleging in their complaint, “Drug manufacturers undertook an orchestrated campaign to flood Louisiana with highly addictive and dangerous opioids in an effort to maximize profits above the health and well-being of their customers.”

“Opioid abuse and addiction has caused widespread tragedy and hardship across Calcasieu Parish and is straining the resources of our office,” said Tony Mancuso, Sheriff of Calcasieu Parish.

“The pharmaceutical companies named in this suit ignored the devastating impact that their drugs were having on individuals and families across the nation, including right here at home,” said Derrick “Digger” Earles, Partner at Laborde Earles. “It’s time they were held accountable and pay for the damage they caused.”

The lawsuits allege that state data shows opioid-related deaths in Louisiana have nearly doubled from 155 in 2012, to 305 in 2016. Louisiana is one of eight states that has more opioid prescriptions than it has residents. In 2013, Louisiana ranked first in opioid prescribing according to the Centers for Disease Control Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report and the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals. The state was found to have the sixth highest prescription-per-capita rate at 1.03 pain killer prescriptions written per Louisiana resident in 2015.

According to the CDC, Washington Parish and Vernon Parish had rates of usage higher than the national average in 2015. Washington Parish’s usage rate was between 677 and 958 milligram equivalents (“MME”) per person in 2015, compared to 640 MME per person in 2015 nationally.

The lawsuits allege the defendants aggressively sought to create a false perception in the minds of physicians, patients, health care providers and clients that using opioids to treat chronic pain was safe for most patients and that the drugs’ benefits outweighed the risks. This was allegedly perpetrated through a coordinated, sophisticated and highly deceptive promotion and marketing campaign that began in the late 1990s, became more aggressive around 2006, and is ongoing. Specifically, the complaint alleges that the defendants poured significant financial resources into generating articles, continuing medical education courses and other “educational” materials, conducting sales visits to doctors, and supporting a network of professional societies and advocacy groups – all of which were successful in the intended purpose of creating a new and phony “consensus” supporting the long-term use of opioids. In the Louisiana Department of Health lawsuit officials wrote, “Drug manufacturers undertook an orchestrated campaign to flood Louisiana with highly addictive and dangerous opioids in an effort to maximize profits above the health and well-being of their customer.”

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