Warren to join wave of lawsuits against ‘Big Pharma’

By: Brian Louwers | Warren Weekly | Published December 8, 2017


WARREN — Add Warren’s collective voice to the chorus of municipalities taking  “Big Pharma” to court.

After meeting with City Attorney Ethan Vinson, Police Commissioner Bill Dwyer, Fire Commissioner Wilburt “Skip” McAdams and representatives of the Chicago-based Edelson PC law firm, Mayor Jim Fouts said he was sold on the idea of joining a wave of lawsuits across the country targeting pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors over opioid addiction and its fallout effects.

Fouts said the city of Warren saw a dramatic spike in the number of overdose deaths from 2015 to 2016. He said Warren police indicated that deaths from opioid abuse in 2017 have already exceeded the total of 32 from last year and that the number has tripled since 2014.

This year, Warren equipped its paramedics and police officers with Narcan kits, designed to save lives in the event of an opioid overdose. The Warren Police Department also instituted the “P.A.I.D.” program, which offers cash rewards for information about drug houses and drug pushers.

“We’re never going to solve the problem until we go after the No. 1 drug pusher in the United States, and I believe that is the pharmaceutical industry,” Fouts said. “We’ve been pretty vigilant, I have and the city has and Bill Dwyer has, as well, going over what we can do about the increasing epidemic of opioid, heroin abuse in Warren. The No. 1 priority, as far as I’m concerned, for the Police Department in the city of Warren is what we can do to stop this epidemic that causes needless deaths and results in increased crime.”

Fouts said Warren will join Detroit as the second city in Michigan to file suit.

Leaders in Wayne and Oakland counties announced a joint lawsuit against multiple drug manufacturers and distributors in October, alleging the deceptive sale and marketing of opioids.

The powerful, highly addictive and potentially dangerous painkillers include prescription drugs OxyContin, Vicodin, Percocet and Dilaudid.

Fouts said a host of lawsuit claims were discusse — including public nuisance, negligence, Medicaid violations and fraud — to be filed in either state or federal court.

On its website at www.edel son.com, Edelson PC cited data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now showing one death from a prescription opioid overdose in the United States every 16 minutes, and 183,000 deaths since 1999.

“In an attempt to clamp down on the epidemic, hundreds of lawsuits have been filed throughout the country against pharmaceutical manufacturers alleging that the companies deceived physicians and consumers about the dangers of prescription painkillers,” the firm posted in a statement on its website. “Over the next six months, it is estimated that over 1,000 lawsuits will be on file in state and federal courts.

“Edelson PC is one of three firms leading a coordinated multi-state opioid litigation coalition. The larger team, comprised of a dozen firms spread through the nation, have agreed to coordinate their state court litigation efforts to both increase efficiencies and speak with a unified voice.”

Fouts said joining in the litigation will cost the city nothing out of pocket and will likely not require any approval from the Warren City Council. By participating, he said the city could potentially be in line to recover damages in the event of a settlement.