New Haven Mayor Toni Harp on Tuesday said drug companies have been increasingly “pushing” the use of opioids. These painkillers can sometimes fall in the wrong hands after they’re no longer used by the person prescribed, like young people, Harp said.
Harp said joining the lawsuit is about highlighting pushy tactics from manufacturers and holding them accountable for their involvement in the crisis affecting the state and country.
“We decided to sign on to this lawsuit because we do believe that, particularly this iteration of the opioid epidemic, has more to do with how people getting their hands on opioid pharmaceuticals that were legally dispensed and probably over-prescribed,” Harp said.
New Haven is home to at least seven methadone clinics, which is a medication used for people with opioid addiction. Harp said this means there’s an “added population” of patients who seek out treatment in the city but can burden local services.
Harp, who has two daughters who are physicians, said the two have worked toward limiting prescribing of opioids.
“They give their patients the minimum (amount),” Harp said. “But many (doctors are) being pushed by the marketing (to) put too much in the hands of their patients.”
Purdue denied the allegations and said it is committed to tackling opioid abuse, as it re-issued the same statement it has made following other lawsuits.
“We are deeply troubled by the opioid crisis, and we are dedicated to being part of the solution,” the statement said. “As a company grounded in science, we must balance patient access to FDA-approved medicines, while working collaboratively to solve this public health challenge.”
The lawsuit accuses opioid makers such as Purdue of working to deceive doctors and patients — including groups such as senior citizens and veterans — about the addictive risks of opioids and their appropriateness for chronic pain management.
The lawsuit seeks compensation for New Haven’s “exorbitant” costs for social and human services and increased expenditures for additional first-responder services to respond to growing opioid abuse.
With 70 deaths in 2016, New Haven ranked second in the state in the number who died of opioid-related causes, according to a news release from Scott+Scott, the Connecticut-based law firm that filed the lawsuit on the city’s behalf. Statewide, 917 people died in 2016 of fatal drug overdoses, about a 20 percent increase from the toll in 2015. Most of those cases involved opioids.
“The pharmaceutical industry is behind one of the greatest and most tragic epidemics facing cities like New Haven,” David Scott, managing partner of Scott+Scott, said in a statement. “Our firm’s roots are in Connecticut, and I could not be more honored to represent New Haven as it takes on the industry on behalf of its community and the families torn apart by the opioid epidemic.”
New Haven’s lawsuit follows similar litigation filed in August against Purdue and other drugmakers by the city of Waterbury. A number of other nearby municipalities, including Bridgeport, agreed to join the complaint.
Last week, the states of Alaska and New Jersey sued Purdue. Other recent lawsuits against Purdue have been filed by the states of Louisiana, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Washington.
New Haven Register