MEDFORD, MA – The city of Medford has filed a public nuisance lawsuit against a number of opioid manufacturers and distributors, Mayor Stephanie M. Burke announced in February. The city is suing five of the largest manufacturers of prescription opioids and their related companies and three wholesale drug distributors for failing to comply with their duties under the Controlled Substances Act, according to a press release.
The law, designed in the 1970s, gave a select few wholesalers the right to deliver opioids in exchange for them to “monitor, identify and report suspicious activity in the size and frequency of opioid shipments to pharmacies and hospitals,” the release stated. Medford is one of many city and county governments nationwide that are taking action against drug manufacturers and distributors for contributing to the opioid crisis.
“We are determined to do everything in our power to stop this epidemic from further destroying the lives of the people of Medford. Ending this crisis is going to take a major collective effort that involves municipal, state and federal leaders, lawmakers, doctors, law enforcement and health officials coming together to find workable solutions,” Burke said in a statement. “But until we address the source of this epidemic and force drug makers and distributors to follow the law, our cities and towns will continue to face an uphill battle.”
According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, 2,069 people died from opioid-related overdoses in 2016, up 15 percent from the previous year. With that comes an increase in the cost of treatment for addiction, education and law enforcement, according to Burke.
“The misuse and abuse of prescription opioids is a complex public health challenge that requires a collaborative and systemic response that engages all stakeholders,” John Parker, senior vice president of Healthcare Distribution Alliance, a trade association that represents distributors, said in a statement. “Given our role, the idea that distributors are responsible for the number of opioid prescriptions written defies common sense and lacks understanding of how the pharmaceutical supply chain actually works and is regulated. Those bringing lawsuits would be better served addressing the root causes, rather than trying to redirect blame through litigation.”
The City has hired the law firms Levin, Papantonio, Hill, Peterson; McHugh Fuller; and Bonsignore PLLC, which have experience in legal action against the pharmaceutical industry.
“We are committed to put an end to this opioid driven epidemic and recoup the costs that the taxpayers of Medford have been forced to expend,” Attorney Robert Bonsignore said.