Holyoke Joins List of Communities to Sue Opioid Manufacturers Text Size
On May 21st, 2018, Mayor Alex Morse announced that the City of Holyoke, Massachusetts, would be taking a much-needed step to hold accountable the companies responsible for dumping millions of dollars’ worth of prescription opiates into its community. The City is filing a public nuisance lawsuit against the pharmaceutical drug manufacturers and wholesale drug distributors that made the opioid epidemic possible.
The City of Holyoke will file suit against five of the largest manufacturers of prescription opioids and their related companies and against the country’s three largest wholesale drug distributors. The manufacturing companies pushed highly addictive, dangerous opioids and falsely represented to doctors that patients would only rarely succumb to drug addiction, while the distributors breached their legal duties to monitor, detect, investigate, refuse and report suspicious orders of prescription opioids. Holyoke is joining a growing list of city and county governments across the country that are taking action against the drug manufacturers and distributors for fueling the opioid crisis in their communities.
Because prescription opioids are a highly addictive substance, in 1970 Congress designed a system to control the volume of opioid pills being distributed in this country. It let only a select few wholesalers gain the right to deliver opioids. In exchange, those companies agreed to do a very important job – halt suspicious orders and control against the diversion of these dangerous drugs to illegitimate uses. But in recent years they failed to do that, and today the people of Holyoke are paying the price.
The City of Holyoke is working with a consortium of law firms to hold pharmaceutical drug manufacturers and wholesale distributors accountable for failing to do what they were charged with doing under the federal Controlled Substances Act – monitor, identify and report suspicious activity in the size and frequency of opioid shipments to pharmacies and hospitals. This litigation is spearheaded in Western Massachusetts by Sweeney Merrigan Law.
“We are determined to do everything in our power to stop this epidemic from further destroying the lives of the people of Holyoke. 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,” Mayor Morse said. “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.”
This action was approved up at a recent Holyoke City Council meeting, when an order filed by At-Large Councilor James Leahy was approved unanimously. “The reason I filed the legislation to join the lawsuit was to seek money from the manufacturers who supplied the drugs into our community. The City has faced too many overdose deaths in the past and I hope we can curb that. I believe that certain groups had money on the mind, not patient care. And that is tragic and sad,” Councilor Leahy Said.
The people of Massachusetts and the City of Holyoke continue to bear the burden of the cost of the epidemic, as the costs of treatment for addiction, education and law enforcement have continued to rise. According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, in 2016, 2,069 people lost their lives due to opioid-related overdoses in the state, a 15 percent increase from the prior year.
The City has hired expert law firms, experienced in holding the powerful pharmaceutical industry accountable. Those firms include the local law firms of Sweeney Merrigan Law, KP Law and Rodman, Rodman and Sandman who are working in collaboration with Baron & Budd; Levin, Papantonio, Thomas, Mitchell, Rafferty & Proctor; Greene Ketchum Bailey Farrell & Tweel; Hill, Peterson, Carper, Bee & Deitzler; and McHugh Fuller Law Group.
Posted on June 19, 2018 by Mayor Intern