New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced lawsuits against eight pharmaceutical companies yesterday, accusing them of aiding and abetting an opioid crisis that has claimed 1,000 lives in New York City in 2016 alone. “Big Pharma helped to fuel this epidemic by deceptively peddling these dangerous drugs and hooking millions of Americans in exchange for profit,” De Blasio said. “It’s time [to] hold the companies accountable for what they’ve done to our City, and help save more lives.”
The lawsuit names eight companies that either manufacture or distribute prescription opioids, and seeks $500 million in damages to combat the cost of the epidemic.
New York alleges that the manufacturers misled the public about the safety of the long-term use of their medication, and that distributors flooded the market with the pills, facilitating their illegal sale. This has placed a “substantial burden” on the city, according to the lawsuit, because it has had to cover the costs of increased treatment services, law enforcements costs, medical examiner costs and more.
The defendants named in the case are some of the biggest pharmaceutical companies in the U.S. Among others, they are manufacturers Johnson & Johnson and Purdue Pharma LP, and distributors AmerisourceBergen Corp., and McKesson.
A statement released by Johnson & Johnson read in part, “We maintain that the allegations made in these lawsuits against our company are baseless and unsubstantiated. Our actions in the marketing and promotion of our opioid pain medicines were appropriate and responsible.”
New York city announced earlier this month that it was divesting $5 billion from fossil fuels and was bringing lawsuits against the world’s largest oil companies for their contribution to global warming. “As climate change continues to worsen, it’s up to the fossil fuel companies whose greed put us in this position to shoulder the cost of making New York safer and more resilient,” De Blasio said at the time.