Roanoke, Roanoke County, Salem sue opioid manufacturers, others

Three areas suing for combined $240 million in damages

By Jeff Williamson - Digital Content Manager

ROANOKE, Va. - Five new Virginia localities are pursuing legal action against Purdue Pharma and other companies believed to be connected to the ongoing opioid crisis.

Roanoke County and the cities of Roanoke and Salem have all filed suit against opioid manufacturers, distributors and pharmacy benefit managers for their role in creating the public health emergency caused by the overuse of prescription opioids. Alleghany County and Bristol have also filed suit.

Roanoke and Roanoke County are each suing for $100 million in damages, while Salem is suing for $40 million in damages.

Each case was filed in each locale's circuit court.

The lawsuits allege that each defendant has contributed to the opioid crisis in Virginia – drug manufacturers make the opioids and misrepresent the truth about their benefits and addiction risks; wholesale distributors ignore their responsibilities to report and stop suspicious orders; and PBMs leverage their role as middlemen to increase the flow of opioids into the marketplace. The localities have all alleged violations of statutory and common law public nuisance, the Virginia Consumer Protection Act, fraud, common law conspiracy, negligence and unjust enrichment.

“We are pleased to represent these Virginia communities as they seek to hold the defendants accountable for their reprehensible actions and recover the funds the community has spent to address the impact of the opioid crisis.  The citizens of these cities and counties deserve justice for the harms inflicted upon them by the defendants and our respective firms are proud to take on this fight on their behalf,” said Kevin H. Sharp, of Sanford Heisler Sharp LLP.

The defendants include manufacturers Purdue Pharma, Abbott Laboratories, Endo Pharmaceuticals, Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals, Teva Pharmaceuticals, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Cephalon, Inc., Barr Laboratories Inc., Actavis Pharma, Watson Laboratories Inc., Allergan PLC and Insys Therapeutics; distributors AmerisourceBergen Drug Corp., Cardinal Health Inc., and McKesson Corp.; and PBMs Express Scripts Inc., Caremark/CVS Health, United Health Group Inc. and OptumRx, Inc.

The rate of opioid overdose deaths has risen substantially in all five localities since the late 1990s, when the defendants began to push opioids for noncancer pain. The localities have also been saddled with increased rates of neonatal abstinence syndrome and increased rates of hepatitis C – a viral condition that can be spread through opioid injection.

These five locales are represented by Sanford Heisler Sharp, Kaufman & Canoles P.C. and the Cicala Law Firm PLLC.

Bland, Giles, Montgomery, Pulaski, Grayson, Carroll, Henry and Pittsylvania counties, as well as the cities of Galax and Martinsville, have already filed lawsuits against Purdue Pharma.

Copyright 2019 by WSLS 10 - All rights reserved.