By Vince Calio, October 24, 2017

The city of Paterson has filed a lawsuit against several pharmaceutical companies, including New Brunswick-based Johnson & Johnson and its Janssen Pharmaceuticals unit, over the opioid crisis.

The lawsuit seeks compensation for the city to cover the costs of social and human services, as well as the enhanced costs for the additional services of police, fire and first responders to cope with the epidemic.

Other defendants in the suite include Israel-based Teva Pharmaceutical; Endo Pharmaceuticals in Malvern, Pennsylvania; Arizona-based Insys Corp.; McKesson Corp. in San Francisco; and wholesale drug distributors Amerisource Bergen and Cardinal Health.

The lawsuit alleges that the defendants:
•Published misleading articles in medical journals, including publications aimed at doctors who commonly treat chronic pain;
•Created a body of false and unsupported literature that appeared to be independent, peer-tested and objective.
•Employed distinguished physicians to write, consult on and lend their names to articles that encouraged the use of opioids to treat chronic pain.
•Sponsored continuing medical education courses that persuaded prescribing doctors that opioids were appropriate for pain relief and posed no serious threat of addiction.
•Publicized statements that the risk of addiction is “exceedingly low in older patients with no current or past history of substance abuse,” when there was no evidence to support this and, in fact, a study in 2010 found that patients 65 or older were among those with the largest number of serious overdoses.

While no monetary amount is named in the lawsuit, Scott+Scott said in a press release that the current lawsuit is comparable to the one the U.S. government brought against big tobacco companies in during the 1990’s for misleading the public about the dangers of cigarette smoking, which resulted in cigarette makers agreeing to pay $365.5 billion; agreeing to follow additional Food and Drug Administration regulations, and placing stronger warning labels and restrictions on its products and in its advertising.

“Like so many other Americans, we have been saddened to see the toll that the opioid epidemic has taken on our communities,” David Scott, managing partner at Scott+Scott, said in a press release. “The pharmaceutical manufacturers and wholesale distributors must be held responsible for their actions, which are the root cause of so much human and financial loss. Our firm is honored that the city of Paterson entrusted us in recovering the financial losses it has suffered and will continue to suffer as a result of having to address the crisis and support its population.”

Domenick Stampone, the city of Paterson’s corporation counsel, said in a prepared statement that the aim of the lawsuit is to hold pharmaceutical companies accountable for the cost of opioid addiction.

“The human cost of the opioid crisis has been devastating to those addicted and their families and friends,” said “This lawsuit seeks to hold responsible those companies whose practices created a crisis that has drained the coffers of cities like Paterson, which operates on meager resources but is relied on to provide critical, life-saving services.”