Thousands have died of opioid overdoses. Merced joins lawsuit against drug makers

Pills spilled out on table (Dreamstime/TNS)
Pills spilled out on table (Dreamstime/TNS)

Merced County is one of 30 California counties suing opioid makers and distributors in a lawsuit filed on Tuesday, according to the law firm handling the case.

Dallas-based Baron & Budd announced it will file lawsuits on behalf of the California counties against many of the nation’s largest pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors, saying they are at fault for prescribing opiates for non-medical purposes. Merced County Supervisor Daron McDaniel on Tuesday confirmed the county is involved.

The lawsuit argues the companies should reimburse taxpayers for the money spent on local resources to respond to the opioid crisis, according to a news release. The California Opioid Consortium represents approximately 10.5 million California residents in the 30 counties.

Health officials estimate 2,031 deaths occurred as a result of opioid overdoses in 2016.

The counties are filing suit in federal court and their cases are expected to be transferred into Multi-District Litigation, which is being overseen by U.S. District Judge Dan Polster of the Northern District of Ohio. More than 500 public entities have filed similar suits around the country, the release said.

The consortium and its counsel say many of the nation’s largest drug manufactures misinformed doctors about the addictiveness and usefulness of opioids. The manufacturers include Purdue Pharma; Teva Ltd; Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc. (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson); Endo Health Solutions Inc.; Allergan PLC; and Mallinckrodt.

The drugs include OxyContin, Percodan, Percocet, Norco and many others.

The lawsuits also name the nation’s largest drug distributors – Cardinal Health, AmerisourceBergen and McKesson Corp. – alleging that the companies failed to monitor, identify and report “suspicious” opioid shipments to pharmacies. Some suits also name other large national distributors and retailers.