Pinal County joined a growing list of counties, cities and states last Tuesday when it filed a lawsuit against opioid manufacturers, distributors, prescribers and dispensers seeking damages for the “societal and financial harm it has suffered at the hands of those responsible for the opioid crisis.”
The lawsuit from the Pinal County Attorney’s Office lists dozens of defendants, including the now-infamous Sackler family behind Purdue Pharma, and calls out companies such as Walmart, Johnson and Johnson, and Walgreens for “downplaying” the “dangerous and deadly” potential effects of misusing opioids.
The complaint claims that these companies willfully took advantage of economically and medical vulnerable Pinal County residents, including the elderly.
The county is seeking the return of taxpayer money lost as a result of the opioid crisis, according to a statement from the Pinal County Attorney’s Office.
“By filing this lawsuit, the County is making it clear that our community will not simply stand by as the residents of Pinal County suffer, and will continue to suffer, while the defendant manufacturers, distributors, prescribers and dispensers continue to profit from their sales and distribution of highly addictive drugs,” the statement reads.
The complaint lays bare the devastating effects the opioid crisis has had on Arizona; the number of opioid-related visits to Arizona hospitals increased from around 20,400 in 2009 to nearly 51,500 in 2016.
The lawsuit accuses prescribers of flooding the county with more opioid prescriptions than medically necessary and manipulating patients with opioid discount cards, and accuses manufacturers of falsely claiming that the risk of opioid addiction is low and unlikely to occur when the drugs are prescribed as opposed to obtained illegally.
The complaint also charges that distributors neglected their legal obligations to report suspicious orders of opioids.
The lawsuit says the defendants’ actions have cost Pinal County dearly, as “… most who become addicted to opioids are no longer able to work, and therefore are no longer able to care for their families, earn a paycheck or spend money in the same way they did before they fell victim to addiction.”
“Simply put, each of the defendants put its desire for profits above the health and well-being of the county’s citizens,” the complaint said. “Pinal and its citizens have paid dearly as a result.”
The Arizona-based firm of Fennemore Craig will lead the litigation on behalf of Pinal County.