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Miami-Dade district sues opioid manufacturers

Oct. 7, 2019
The school system wants to recover the millions of dollars it has spent battling the over-prescription and addiction caused by the drugs.

The Miami-Dade School Board is suing more than a dozen opiod drugmakers and distributors in an effort to recoup the millions of dollars it has spent battling what it has labeled the “worst man-made epidemic in modern medical history.”

The Miami Herald reports that the school board is seeking damages for the additional services on which it has spent money to “protect the health and welfare of the community it serves” from the opioid over-prescription and addiction the companies have caused, according to the lawsuit.

The costs mentioned include training school nurses, resource officers and others on how to properly treat drug overdoses, providing mental health services for students and families suffering from the opioid crisis, and increasing school security efforts to stop the flow of opioids into schools.

“The companies that develop and market opioids have caused rampant over-prescription and addiction," the School Board said in a statement. "We have witnessed first-hand the devastating effects these drugs have had on families in our communities.

“These profit-driven entities have caused emotional, moral, and financial distress on our stakeholders. We will not rest until these wrongs have been addressed.”

The nearly 300-page federal lawsuit was filed in the Southern District of Florida.

It will soon be transferred to the Northern District of Ohio to join more than 2,000 other lawsuits in a multidistrict litigation against manufacturers including Purdue Pharma, Johnson & Johnson, Actavis Pharma Inc — and retailers including CVS, Walgreens and Walmart.

Purdue Pharma, the maker of prescription opioid painkiller OxyContin, is not listed in the district’s lawsuit because of the company’s recent bankruptcy filings. The district says it plans on pursuing its claims against Purdue through the bankruptcy process.

The lawsuits contend that the drugmakers conspired and created “deceptive” marketing strategies to underplay the risks of opioids and exaggerate the drugs’ benefits across the United States, including in Florida, to increase their profit and sales.

The complaint also alleges that distributors noticed an increase of orders for opioid prescriptions in a number of Florida counties, which at times exceeded the county’s population, but failed to report, control or investigate these orders, as is required by law, further “deepening the crisis of opioid abuse, addiction, and death in Florida.”

The companies in question deny the allegations. They are reportedly trying to settle the lawsuits through settlements and some are already in the process, such as Johnson & Johnson and its Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies.

Overall, the number of opioids that moved through Florida was second only to California. It amounted to an average of 42 pills per Floridian per year from 2006 through 2012.

Drug overdoses are also one of the leading causes of death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 399,000 deaths from 1999 to 2017 have been attributed to opiods.

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