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In Lawsuit, Pam Bondi Accuses Pill Manufacturers of Causing Opioid Crisis

| May 17, 2018

Attorney General Pam Bondi says she's not scared to take on Big Pharma.

Attorney General Pam Bondi says she’s not scared to take on Big Pharma.

Declaring that she “wasn’t scared to take them on,” Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi filed a civil suit Tuesday accusing five of the nation’s largest opioid manufacturers and four distributors of causing the opioid crisis that is killing an average 15 Floridians daily.

“We are very proud because we have just filed one of the most comprehensive lawsuits in the country on behalf of the state of Florida regarding the opioid crisis,” Bondi, standing in the lunchroom of a recovery center in Tampa, said.

Bondi, who is seeking to recover “all measure of damages allowable,” predicted a settlement with the defendants could be in the “billions.”

Five other states on Tuesday also filed lawsuits against drug maker Purdue Pharma, but Bondi called Florida’s challenge “one of the most comprehensive suits in the country.”

The lawsuit alleges that manufacturers Purdue; Endo Pharmaceuticals; Janssen Pharmaceuticals; Cephalon, Inc.; and Allergan plc — and their related companies — and distributors AmerisourceBergen Drug Corporation; McKesson Corporation; Cardinal Health, Inc.; and Mallinckrod LLC violated the state’s unfair and deceptive practices laws and Florida’s criminal racketeering laws.

The manufacturers “promoted misrepresentations about the use of opioids to physicians, other prescribers, and consumers that were designed to increase opioid prescriptions and opioid use,” the 54-page complaint, filed in Pasco County, reads.

The lawsuit also accuses the manufacturing companies of using “front organizations” to promote opioids and of paying alleged medical experts, called “key opinion leaders,” to publish articles that promoted the use of opioids to treat pain but omitted information regarding the risks.

Other alleged misconduct includes misleading veterans about the dangers of mixing opioids with benzodiazepine, a drug commonly prescribed for post-traumatic stress disorder.

Distributors are accused of filling suspicious orders and failing to properly assess customers before filling the orders, among other things.

“These dangerous acts and practices have devastating consequences as you all know,” Bondi said. “It’s time the defendants paid for the pain and the destruction they have caused.”

As the opioid crisis has worsened, hundreds of local governments around the country have already sued drug manufacturers.

After trying to work out a settlement, a federal judge in Ohio last month announced plans to move ahead with three trials in 2019.

Bondi, noting that Florida is the third largest state, said she wanted to pursue separate litigation.

A bevy of law enforcement officials, as well as Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, House Speaker Richard Corcoran, among others, joined Bondi for Tuesday’s announcement regarding the legal action.

Putnam, the leading Republican gubernatorial candidate, said he supports the lawsuit and credited Bondi’s efforts to eradicate prescription drug abuse.

Putnam said he has discovered “a sad recurring theme” in his travels around the state.

“In every community, they’ve had to add staff to the medical examiner’s office and add space to the morgue. That’s how serious the opioid crisis is,” he said, adding that proceeds from the lawsuit can be used to help fund treatment.

But state Rep. Sean Shaw criticized Bondi, who has served for attorney general for eight years, for waiting too long to challenge the drug makers and distributers.

Shaw, a Tampa Democrat who is running to succeed Bondi as attorney general, called the lawsuit “too little too late for the families in our state who have been devastated by a preventable epidemic had action been take years ago before we reached this tipping point.”

In 2016, heroin caused 952 deaths in Florida, fentanyl caused 1,390 deaths, oxycodone caused 723 deaths, and hydrocodone caused 245 deaths, according to a legislative staff analysis of a measure aimed at combatting opioid addiction. More than 4,000 babies were born addicted to opioids in Florida in 2016, an increase of over 1,000 percent from a decade ago, according to the Florida Department of Children and Families.

Those statistics led Gov. Rick Scott last year to declare a public health emergency due to opioids.

Earlier this year, lawmakers passed a bill that, among other things, places limits on prescriptions that doctors can write for treatment of acute pain. Doctors in many cases are limited to writing prescriptions for three-day supplies, though they can prescribe up to seven-day supplies of controlled substances if “medically necessary.” Cancer patients, people who are terminally ill, palliative care patients and those who suffer from major trauma are exempt from the limits.

In the complaint filed Tuesday, Bondi enlisted assistance from five different law firms, including two Panhandle firms — Santa Rosa Beach-based Drake Martin Law Firm and Panama City-based Harrison, Rivard, Duncan & Buzzett — she worked with on a lawsuit filed in response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The litigation resulted in a $2 billion settlement.

–Christine Sexton, News Service of Florida

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14 Responses for “In Lawsuit, Pam Bondi Accuses Pill Manufacturers of Causing Opioid Crisis”

  1. Just the truth says:

    Sorry Pam don’t agree with you, how about holding all the Doctors each day that give prescriptions with this drug accountable for all the deaths they caused? Doctors need to research more the drugs they give out each day and the side effects they can cause.

  2. Ready says:

    In reference to Mr. Shaw’s beef, could he please explain what he has done going back to the time in which he speaks of. It would be nice if he could provide what he has done or introduced some legislation to the affect of addressing this issue please provide this ??

  3. Dave says:

    Do away with big Pharma! Add more limits to prescriptions! Legalize marijuana!

  4. Savannah's Crusade says:

    Thank you Pam Bondi. Reading this article about the lawsuit is very emotional for my husband and myself as we lost our 23 year old daughter to the opiod crisis 6 months ago. We have been waiting for this day. Thank you for standing up for the countless individuals and families that have been devastated by this crisis. We are behind you every step of the way.

  5. Pogo says:

    @trumpholes and big pam

    Read twice and ask God for forgiveness – the rest of us won’t…30894.30894.0.35242.….0…1.1.64.psy-ab..0.0.0….0.i2m0LWJBtD8

    The drug industry’s triumph over the DEA

    Amid a targeted lobbying effort, Congress weakened the DEA’s ability to go after drug distributors, even as opioid-related deaths continue to rise, a Washington Post and ‘60 Minutes’ investigation finds.

    By Scott Higham and Lenny Bernstein

    “In April 2016, at the height of the deadliest drug epidemic in U.S. history, Congress effectively stripped the Drug Enforcement Administration of its most potent weapon against large drug companies suspected of spilling prescription narcotics onto the nation’s streets.

    By then, the opioid war had claimed 200,000 lives, more than three times the number of U.S. military deaths in the Vietnam War. Overdose deaths continue to rise. There is no end in sight.

    A handful of members of Congress, allied with the nation’s major drug distributors, prevailed upon the DEA and the Justice Department to agree to a more industry-friendly law, undermining efforts to stanch the flow of pain pills, according to an investigation by The Washington Post and “60 Minutes.” The DEA had opposed the effort for years.

    The law was the crowning achievement of a multifaceted campaign by the drug industry to weaken aggressive DEA enforcement efforts against drug distribution companies that were supplying corrupt doctors and pharmacists who peddled narcotics to the black market. The industry worked behind the scenes with lobbyists and key members of Congress, pouring more than a million dollars into their election campaigns.

    The chief advocate of the law that hobbled the DEA was Rep. Tom Marino, a Pennsylvania Republican who is now President Trump’s nominee to become the nation’s next drug czar. Marino spent years trying to move the law through Congress. It passed after Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) negotiated a final version with the DEA…”

    Full Article

  6. Sherry says:

    While I’m happy to see Florida taking a good look at this tragic situation. . . the regulations for controlling drugs needs to be at the FEDERAL level of our government. Having each state try and develop their own regulations is ludicris! Drugs and guns flowing freely across state lines, in a crime ridden nation is NOT where we should be!

    I also agree that we should not only regulate and hold responsible drug manufacturers, but drug prescribers (DOCTORS) as well!

    Pogo, great posting of the FACTS! Too bad many who read Flaglerlive could care less about factual information. . .

  7. No More Alcohol says:

    Pam Bondi will PAY dearly for taking on the Big Pharma’s……….I say we bring lawsuits against the Whiskey manufactures and Beer & Wine Liquor stores. They have KILLED more humans then a few pain pills.

  8. a tiny manatee says:

    a blind hog.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Pam Bondi is a JOKE! She and her buddy Rick Scott are to blame. They allow the pain clinics to open up all over this state and they have done nothing to get treatment and help for those who need it so they don’t have to turn to pills. Next thing we know she is going to take action against restaurants and the food industry for making people obese. There are people like Bondi that will do anything for attention. Pam Bondi doesn’t care about the people of this state. She is too busy chasing the President hoping to get a position with him when she is termed out here in Florida. When she isn’t doing that she is playing with her phone, chewing her gum and flipping her hair all around. No, Pam we are not impressed. It is unbelievable this woman ever got elected to a second term….she is as close to a zero as they come.

  10. Flatsflyer says:

    The Blond Pole Dancer is worried about 8 druggies commiting suicide each and every day but has ignored the fact that 16 Florida people die each and every day because she and Scott refused to expand Medicaid

  11. Concerned Observer says:

    As with so many lawsuits, this one seems to be going after the deepest pockets rather than the actual source of the event. I expected better of you Ms. Attorney General.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Where has Bondi been while the problem has been getting out of hand for year????? Just like the rest of those in authority, all they have wanted to do in put people in jail when evidence has proven that doesn’t fix the problem. Has to be a publicity stunt because this Attorney General does little to nothing. Can’t wait till she is termed out and we don’t have to watch her and listen to her on her soap box being so eccentric and not genuine.

  13. mindseye says:

    Hospitals push opioids as well. They are all in it together and it’s all about the $$$$$$.

  14. kevin says:

    Republicans for years have argued for the need to end frivilous lawsuits including those against manufacturers of defective products yet now they are jumping on the bandwagon of this anti-opioid campaign yet where were they against big tobacco? Silent. Where are they against the alcohol industry? Silent. Yet both industries target the young and have used tactics to market their products in movies and television. I do not deny there are likely bad actors who have pushed many a pharmaceutical product (not just opioids) for other than altruistic reasons, yet that does not warrant an ambulance chasing mentality of going after deep pocket defendants. Republicans de-cry the nanny state, yet when politically convenient for them they will pursue an action which is nannyish.

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