HARRIS COUNTY, Texas - Harris County is taking the fight against opioids from the streets the courtroom.
Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan announced a major lawsuit against prescription drug manufacturers and distributors Wednesday.
“We accuse them of creating a public nuisance of conspiracy and neglect. These defendants placed their quest for profits above the public good,” said Ryan. “The defendants engaged in a campaign we believe of lies, half-truths, and deceptions to create a market, encourage over-prescribing and the long term use of opioids.”
Twenty one pharmaceutical companies, four doctors, and a pharmacist are named in a civil lawsuit. More defendants may be added to the lawsuit in the future.
The doctors and pharmacist involved in the civil suit are already facing criminal charges.
“When you have one doctor who’s prescribing millions of prescriptions in a year, then that goes back up the chain. There is an awareness all the way back to the manufacture of who these distributors are and the amount of distribution that they’re making,” said Mike Gallagher, lead outside council.
Ryan said 318 people died from opioid overdoses in Harris County in 2015. In addition to lives lost, he said the cost to taxpayers is tremendous.
“The bottom line is we in Harris County have suffered already too much because of opioids and the marketing and distribution of opioids by the manufacturers and distributors. We believe we must stop these disastrous consequences,” said Ryan.
One of the companies named in the lawsuit is Purdue Pharma. The company released the following statement Wednesday:
We are deeply troubled by the opioid crisis and we are dedicated to being part of the solution. As a company grounded in science, we must balance patient access to FDA-approved medicines, while working collaboratively to solve this public health challenge. Although our products account for approximately 2% of the total opioid prescriptions, as a company, we’ve distributed the CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain, developed the first FDA-approved opioid medication with abuse-deterrent properties and partner with law enforcement to ensure access to naloxone. We vigorously deny these allegations and look forward to the opportunity to present our defense.