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  • Mark Baratelli, Editor

Lawsuit to Recover Damages Sustained by the City as a Result of the Opioid Crisis

Since 1999, the amount of prescription opioids sold in the United States nearly quadrupled.


In 2018, the City Attorney's Office engaged outside counsel James D. Young, an experienced class action attorney, to research the feasibility of filing a lawsuit to recover damages sustained by the City of Orlando as a result of the opioid crisis.


Outside counsel has been monitoring cases filed across the country and has recommended that the City proceed with its own action, to best position itself with respect to settlements being discussed. 


The City Attorney recommends that the City proceed with the litigation.


Council approval of that course of action is requested and a draft complaint (Read it in full) goes before City Council for approval November 11th.


Below are some highlights from the Draft Complaint "City of Orlando v. Purdue Pharma."


This case arises from the worst man-made epidemic in modern medical history— the misuse, abuse, and over-prescription of opioids.


Since 1999, the amount of prescription opioids sold in the United States nearly quadrupled. In 2016, 289 million prescriptions for opioids were filled in the United States—enough to medicate every adult in America around the clock for a month.


Defendants made blockbuster profits. In 2012 alone, opioids generated $8 billion in revenue for drug companies. By 2015, sales of opioids grew to approximately $9.6 billion.


OxyContin is Purdue’s largest-selling opioid. Since 2009, Purdue’s national annual sales of OxyContin have fluctuated between $2.47 billion and $3.1 billion, up four-fold from 2006 sales of $800 million. OxyContin constitutes roughly 30% of the entire market for analgesic drugs (i.e., painkillers). Sales of OxyContin (launched in 1996) went from a mere $49 million in its first full year on the market to $1.6 billion in 2002.


This suit takes aim at the two primary causes of the opioid crisis: (a) a marketing scheme based on the false and deceptive marketing of prescription opioids, which was designed to dramatically increase the demand for and sale of opioids and opioid prescriptions; and (b) a supply chain scheme, pursuant to which the various entities in the supply chain failed to design and operate systems to identify suspicious orders of prescription opioids, maintain effective controls against diversion, and halt suspicious orders when they were identified, thereby contributing to the oversupply of such drugs.


Orlando asserts two categories of claims: (a) claims against the pharmaceutical manufacturers of prescription opioid drugs that engaged in a massive false marketing campaign to drastically expand the market for such drugs and their own market share; and (b) claims against entities in the supply chain that reaped enormous financial rewards by refusing to monitor and restrict the improper distribution of those drugs.


To care for and to protect the members of the community, Orlando has

unexpectedly had to spend vast funds on a wide range of services to fight the opioid epidemic’s staggering, unanticipated, and far-reaching effects. The opioid epidemic has strained Orlando’s resources, including by causing Orlando to incur substantial and unusual costs for providing, amongst other things, health care, foster care, law enforcement and emergency responder services, public assistance, addiction treatment programs, overdose reversal medications, neonatal abstinence syndrome treatment, and other social services and public programs.


As detailed herein, the opioid epidemic was caused by the malicious conduct of the Defendants motivated by the corporate need for ever greater profit. Orlando brings this suit in order to force the Defendants to share in shouldering the costs with which they have burdened the City.


From 1999 through 2016, overdoses killed more than 350,000 Americans.4 Over 200,000 of them, more than were killed in the Vietnam War, died from opioids prescribed by doctors to treat pain.5 These opioids include brand-name prescription medications such as OxyContin, Opana ER, Vicodin, Subsys, and Duragesic, as well as generics like oxycodone, hydrocodone, and fentanyl.


According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, 80% of people who initiated heroin use in the past decade started with prescription opioids—which, at the molecular level and in their effect, closely resemble heroin.

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