Group of CT Municipalities Explore Lawsuit Against Opioid Drugmakers

Group of CT Municipalities Explore Lawsuit Against Opioid Drugmakers

A coalition of elected leaders including Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton and Ridgefield First Selectman Rudy Marconi is exploring a joint lawsuit to hold the pharmaceutical industry liable for the opioid overdose crisis in Connecticut.

“In some cases these companies are part of the problem,” Boughton said. “We know that many times companies out there will push their products in a competition to get them into the marketplace, and as a result, people are becoming addicted.”

The effort initiated by Waterbury Mayor Neil O’Leary has not reached the level in other states such as Oklahoma, Missouri and Ohio, where officials have sued manufacturers of opioid pain medications, charging the drugmakers’ marketing practices have led to an epidemic of addiction and overdose deaths.

Connecticut mayors are just starting to explore whether a coordinated lawsuit could make a difference in a drug crisis that killed 900 people in Connecticut last year — more than all those who died in homicides, suicides and car accidents combined.

“People might say ‘Why a lawsuit? Why not put more cops on the street?’ But this is a problem that’s bigger than we are,” said Marconi, the chairman of the Opioid Abuse Task Force for a statewide association of towns and cities known as the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities. “We are losing people each and every day.”

The next step is for the elected leaders to meet with a law firm representing state officials in New York against the pharmaceutical industry. The law firm helped win a $630 million payment from Stamford-based Purdue Pharma and its executives in 2007 for misrepresenting the addiction risks of OxyContin. Purdue settled with Washington and other states that claimed the company aggressively marketed OxyContin to doctors while downplaying the addiction risks, the Associated Press reported.

The formation of the coalition follows news last month that Attorney General George Jepsen had joined his colleagues in other states in an investigation “to evaluate whether pharmaceutical manufacturers have engaged in unlawful practices in the marketing and sale of prescription opioids.”

Opioid-death quadrupled back to top

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said opioid-related deaths nationwide quadrupled to 33,000 from 1999 to 2015.

Connecticut’s association of cities and towns said it supports the lawsuit initiative.

“Any time our municipal leaders want to take a real leadership role on a topic that that deeply impacts their community, we are going to be supportive of their effort,” said Joe DeLong, executive director of CCM. “These mayors are dealing with it right on the front lines.”

A spokeswoman from the trade association, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, declined to comment on Tuesday.

The opioid lawsuit initiative in Connecticut follows a lawsuit brought by Boughton and other urban leaders to get their fair share of state education aid. That coalition won a partial victory in court last year when a judge ruled the state’s education funding formula was irrational and unconstitutional. The state is appealing the decision.

Marconi said the opioid lawsuit discussion has been brewing for the last year, particularly in Waterbury.

“In speaking with Neil, he has been dealing with a tremendous issue in Waterbury,” Marconi said of the city’s mayor.

“He would tell me ‘I am losing people just about every weekend, and something has to be done,’” Marconi said. “So out of out of frustration for city I know he loves, and seeing people die on a regular basis, he said ‘Okay, let’s try this.’”