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Suffolk County Suing Drug Companies Over Opioids

Suffolk County is suing Connecticut-based Purdue Pharma along with a number of other pharmaceutical companies for deceptive practices that it claims led to the county’s opioid and heroin epidemic.

Legislator Robert Calarco sponsored a bill passed into law last year that created a commission to explore a possible lawsuit. That committee recently decided to move forward.

The suit alleges Purdue and other companies took extensive efforts to deceive the Food and Drug Administration and doctors about the risks of their products.

Dr. Andrew Kolodny is the co-founder of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing. He says the broader Suffolk County suit gets to the heart of why doctors were overprescribing opioids.

“We were responding to marketing – really a brilliant marketing campaign – and in some cases marketing disguised as education – that led us to believe that the risks of addiction had been overblown, led us to believe that we had been allowing patients to suffer needlessly, that we could be more compassionate if we prescribed opioids more liberally; and that campaign was filled with misinformation.” 

Legislator Calarco says the county has been financially burdened by the cost of combatting the rise in opioid addiction.

“When you add in our methadone clinics, when you add in our treatment facilities, when you add in the cost to our police department and the fact of the matter through Medicaid and our own insurance provided to our employees that we’re paying for the opiate medications to be prescribed in the first instance, and then paying for the rehab to be done afterwards. It is a very large number.”

The suit does not specify the amount of money the county is seeking. Other defendants include Johnson & Johnson and Janssen Pharmaceuticals.