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March 9, 2018

Colorado County Sues Opioid Makers for Millions


A Colorado county recently sued the nation’s pharmaceutical companies and distributors, blaming them for the states’ growing drug crisis. Huerfano County filed the suit claiming the companies are responsible for the ongoing Colorado opioid epidemic. Located in the southern part of the state, the county’s lawsuit is the first of its kind filed by local government.

According to a recent article published in The Denver Post, the lawsuit claims that residents in Huerfano County were falsely induced to take highly addictive opioids for pain management purposes. Additionally, the lawsuit claims the Colorado opioid epidemic was caused by drug manufacturers engaging in fraudulent and deceptive marketing as well as distributors who brought large amounts of opioids into the marketplace.

Major Steps in Fighting Opioid Addiction in Colorado

While the county’s lawsuit is a first in the state of Colorado, Huerfano County has joined a nationwide legal movement aiming to stop the opioid epidemic. In January, Philadelphia and the state of Delaware filed similar lawsuits. In New York City, mayor Bill de Blasio recently announced that the city is suing drug companies to hold them responsible for the ongoing drug crisis. Additionally, the city of Chicago filed a case again pharmaceutical companies in 2014 and remains active.

The claim filed on behalf of Huerfano County was filed lawyers Stephen Ochs and Patrick Mika, along with San Francisco-based attorneys Steven Skikos and Mark Crawford. The county’s lawsuit seeks class-action status against pharmaceutical companies and distributors they feel who are responsible for Colorado’s opioid crisis. The companies mentioned in the lawsuit including McKesson Corp., Johnson & Johnson, Purdue Pharma, Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc., Teva Pharmaceuticals USA as well as these company’s subsidiaries.

According to an article published by the Post Independent Citizen Telegram, Huerfano County is seeking at least $750,000 in economic damages and $1.5 million in future damages. The county is also asking for a court order declaring that the pharmaceutical companies violated the federal False Advertising Law. The attorneys handling the case state that the county will not owe any money if the lawsuit is lost.

The Root of the Colorado Opioid Crisis

In the Denver Post article, a joint investigation by the Washington Post and CBS’s 60 Minutes revealed that the pharmaceutical giant McKesson was shipping the same quantities of opioid pills to pharmacies in Huerfano County in the same quantities seen in shipments to large drugstores next to major medical centers.

Helen Haupang, a retired DEA official, stated that McKesson was supplying enough opioid medications to give every resident a monthly dose of 30 to 60 tablets. However, senior vice-president for the Healthcare Distribution Alliance, stated that opioid addiction is the result of a complex set of factors.

“Given our role, the idea that distributors are responsible for the number of opioid prescriptions written defies common sense and lacks understanding of how the pharmaceutical supply chain actually works and is regulated…Those bringing lawsuits would be better served addressing the root causes, rather than trying to redirect blame through litigation.”

By some estimates, 60 percent of people are become addicted to prescription painkillers are the result of overprescribing by healthcare professionals. In the Denver Post article, it was mentioned that 80 percent of Colorado residents who are addicted to heroin were first addicted to opioid medications.

doctor in handcuffs holding money

“Reckless Promotion”

The underlying aim of Huerfano County’s lawsuit is to point out that pharmaceutical companies recklessly promoted opioid medications. Additionally, companies such as McKesson put profits over the well-being of those using opioid medications. In fact, McKesson had been punished for failing to put controls in place in regulating the number of medications.

In May 2008, McKesson entered an agreement with the DEA to pay a $13.25 million civil fine. In 2017, they paid the federal government $150 billion for reported violations of the Controlled Substance Act. The allegations centered on the fact that McKesson failed to report suspicious and abnormally high quantities of medications that were shipped nationwide.

Another pharmaceutical company, Purdue Pharma, also has come under scrutiny. It has been alleged they knew the prescribing practices of thousands of Colorado doctors. Moreover, Purdue Pharma had the ability to single out doctors whose waiting rooms were overcrowded with the young, healthy or homeless, the lawsuit says. In the Denver Post article, it mentioned that the company maintained a database of doctors suspected of inappropriately prescribing drugs. However, they failed to report this activity.

The Time to Get Help with Opioid Addiction is Now

The Colorado opioid crisis mirrors a wider ongoing problem plaguing the country. It is estimated that 115 people die daily due to opioid overdoses. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the total economic burden of prescription opioid misuse in America is approximately $78.5 billion a year. This includes healthcare costs and well as lost productivity, drug treatment, and involvement by the criminal justice system.

If you or a loved one is struggling with opioid abuse, you cannot put off treatment. You must act now in getting the treatment and support needed to defeat opioid addiction once and for all. With all the treatment options that are available, you may feel overwhelmed with the choices laid out before you. Additionally, you may feel there is nowhere to turn to get the information and support you need to make the best-informed choice in opioid addiction treatment.

The treatment professionals at Stout Street Foundation are here to help you. For over four decades, we have helped countless thousands of addicts overcome addiction and put them on the road to recovery. We offer long-term and short-term treatment options that are effective, proven to work and can be tailored to meet your specific needs. We provide a structured and empowering environment to help you uncover the roots of your addiction and gain the confidence to embrace lasting sobriety.

Tomorrow will be too late; call Stout Street Foundation toll-free right now and break free from opioid addiction for good.