Clay joins 35 counties in opioid lawsuit

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

The law firms of Simmons Hanly Conroy and Crueger Dickinson LLC filed the first Iowa federal court lawsuits Friday on behalf of Clay, Buena Vista, O’Brien and 33 other Iowan counties against pharmaceutical manufacturers to address the “opioid crisis.”

The defendants in the lawsuits include Purdue Pharma L.P.; Teva Pharmaceuticals USA Inc.; Cephalon Inc.; Johnson & Johnson; Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc.; and Endo Pharmaceuticals Inc.

Erin Dickinson, of Crueger Dickinson LLC, and lead counsel in the lawsuit, previously appeared before the Iowa State Association of Counties when gathering the class, which ISAC encouraged counties to join. Clay County did so during a board of supervisors meeting. Dickinson said the filing marked an important step to “hold those responsible.”

“Communities throughout Iowa are suffering as a result of the opioid epidemic,” Dickinson said. “The lawsuits filed today — the first in Iowa — are an important step toward holding those responsible for causing the worst drug epidemic we’ve ever seen. Together with Simmons Hanly Conroy, we will work to get justice for the people of Iowa who have suffered unimaginable losses.”

Burlin Matthews, Clay County supervisor and second vice president of the 2018 ISAC board of directors, explained why Clay County became involved in the lawsuit.

“How it was presented to us at the state was the attorney generals have filed lawsuits against these five pharmaceutical companies because of the way it was marketed,” Matthews said. “And they did that with the (1998) tobacco lawsuit also. The unfortunate part of that lawsuit was it wasn’t shared with the counties. It was kept in Des Moines for the treasurer.

“Because opioids or any other type of illegal activity are going on, and people may be going to jail, we carry the cost for that. The idea of us as a county joining a class action lawsuit is, we would receive some costs that have already been expended for these people that have been arrested for opioids. ... It would provide an avenue for us if there’s a settlement to recover some costs directly through the jail and (county) attorney’s office. That’s the big impetus as far we’re concerned as a board.”

He also addressed the reasons for ISAC’s involvement in the lawsuit by supporting the class.

“The reason that ISAC got involved was because ISAC is the organization that looks out for us as counties, representing us on lots of different phases,” Matthews said. “Just because we’re a county doesn’t mean we stand alone. That’s where ISAC comes in. One of the things they were looking into was the impact this is having on counties in their local jails because counties are paying for it. ... They knew there would be some class action lawsuits filed not only by the attorney general’s office but other organizations, lawyers. Our (ISAC) CEO Bill Peterson actually interviewed different companies in this problem, interested in having Iowan counties join this process. ISAC is getting nothing out of it themselves. They are just the go between.”

The lawsuits state that prescription opioid deaths in Iowa have quadrupled in the last 20 years, and rates of prescription opioid overdose deaths since 1999 in Iowa have increased with Polk County — a class member — making up 25 percent of those deaths.

The lawsuit also states that “the defendants sought to create a false perception in the minds of physicians, patients, health care providers and health care payors that using opioids to treat chronic pain was safe for most patients and that the drugs’ benefits outweighed the risks. This was allegedly perpetrated through a civil conspiracy involving a coordinated, sophisticated and highly deceptive (unbranded to evade the extensive regulatory framework governing branded communications) promotion and marketing campaign that began in the late 1990s, became more aggressive around 2006, and is ongoing. Specifically, the complaints detail how the defendants allegedly poured significant financial resources into generating articles, continuing medical education courses and other ‘educational’ materials, conducting sales visits to doctors, and supporting a network of professional societies and advocacy groups — all of which were successful in the intended purpose of creating a new and phony ‘consensus’ supporting the long-term use of opioids.”

Other counties involved in the lawsuit include: Adair, Adams, Audubon, Benton, Bremer, Buchanan, Calhoun, Carroll, Cedar, Clayton, Clinton, Dallas, Delaware, Fayette, Hamilton, Hardin, Humboldt, Johnson, Lee, Mahaska, Marion, Mitchell, Monroe, Montgomery, Plymouth, Polk, Pottawattamie, Sac, Scott, Shelby, Sioux, Taylor and Winneshiek.

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  • The opioid epidemic is a text book example of letting the 'so called' free market work and expecting for profit businesses, who are required by law to maximize profits for their shareholders, to do the right thing for society.

    I find it interesting the conservative mantra is to leave everything to the free market and demand personal responsibility from people. But when the consequences of those actions negatively hit home, then it's another story.

    -- Posted by helped_myself on Wed, Jan 10, 2018, at 8:32 AM
  • LOL! We know in your progressive world, the words "free market" have an entirely different meaning!

    -- Posted by Dick Butkus on Wed, Jan 10, 2018, at 7:45 PM
  • So helped myself, looking ahead with the push for legalized cannabis. The same thing will happen with the cannabis industry.

    -- Posted by clayfarmer on Thu, Jan 11, 2018, at 7:39 AM
  • I take that as an endorsement to legalize pot and let the free market do it's magic. But I would add regulation which conservatives hate. Also the difference is, there's not one documented case of marijuana overdose death. If it's legalized, it'll be regulated which makes it safe from dangerous additives, keeps kids picked up for one joint out of prison saving tax money.

    I know conservatives love to give all their tax money to people/corporations that don't earn it through non-earned interest tax rates ($ that can be earned by laying by the pool and hiring someone to invest for you), tax free inheritance on up to $22 million (like you even know anyone with that much cash), permanent tax breaks to bring in businesses when there's already worker shortages due to slave wages, loop holes and exemptions for named specific businesses that can grease the right palms, etc.

    I live in a society called the USA with you two whether I like it or not. I prefer it to be healthy, educated, productive and compassionate to the least among us. If that means I pay taxes I gladly do it. It's the price we pay. Go see if the rich will let you live in their private, gated, guarded compounds and don't try to use any public services/roads/airports, expect any military protection, consumer protection, court protection. Go depend on the charitable whims of the rich.

    You two obviously don't give a whit about anyone but yourselves and those you love (if there are any which I doubt/pity). I will give you credit for making it clear you are all for yourselves and to heck with everyone else except maybe the rich which wouldn't have anything to do with you either.

    -- Posted by helped_myself on Thu, Jan 11, 2018, at 9:04 AM
  • Well you sure ventured into other subjects. You're naïve to think that plant researchers aren't working on making the plant stronger. By the way I'm undecided legalization. But worry we would have a segment of society that wouldn't be employable. But if you can't pass a drug test for employment, you can't have public assistance. Have you ever had admitted pot user try to find a repair part for you? Plan not to be in a hurry, major fog. But I will laugh when there is GMO cannabis.

    -- Posted by clayfarmer on Thu, Jan 11, 2018, at 9:56 AM
  • You are soooo clueless. Why do you equate pot with welfare?If you don't think people that have smoked for years are successfully working and responsible you'd be surprised. That means they don't get assistance. But being drunk or on prescription drugs is ok because it's legal? You see ONE person you ASSUME smokes pot and figure they represent the hundreds of millions that use it without issue.

    Florida tried drug testing welfare people and found about 108 or 2.6% of the 4,086 tested costing $118,140 not to mention $1.5 million in legal fees.

    As far as increasing the THC in the plant, so what?

    Also my original comment about conservatives only caring about issues when they hit close to home was ignored and you started down another path. Which backs up my point they only care about themselves.

    -- Posted by helped_myself on Thu, Jan 11, 2018, at 12:07 PM
  • You seem to paint conservatives with a wide brush, don't like it the other way, huh? ;)No, I don't think driving drunk or on prescription drugs is ok either.

    Would you be ok with doctors operating on you after smoking pot? Or driving a bus full of kids?

    So why has homelessness been raising in Colorado?

    -- Posted by clayfarmer on Thu, Jan 11, 2018, at 12:33 PM
  • Of course, people should not perform their jobs or drive impaired. Why do you to think it's ok to drink and use prescription drug as a leisure activity but not smoke pot?

    What the heck does being homeless have to do with pot being legal? Populations are growing so any related demographics would also grow. And even if raw numbers change only comparing rates is a legitimate comparison.

    As far as viewing conservatives the same, I look to the policies they promote or oppose and the consequences/advancements of those polices. Over the course of our country, conservatives have opposed every change to benefit the working class and poor: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, civil rights, etc.

    -- Posted by helped_myself on Fri, Jan 12, 2018, at 7:22 AM
  • You may want to reread that history book, Democrats were against the civil rights movement. Republicans as well as Dems , in 1935 voted for the SS Act, and a few from each party voting no.

    I know the current Dems never met a tax increase they didn't like. But JFK was for tax cuts. Yes things change, heck even Hillary voted for the wall.

    -- Posted by clayfarmer on Fri, Jan 12, 2018, at 11:40 AM
  • First of all, I'm referring to liberal/conservative policies, not political parties as the members change, look at the GOP now. And it's grasping at straws to find a conservative policy or law that was initiated to benefit the least among us as per the constitutional prelude "to promote the general welfare".

    As far as tax increases, conservatives have never met a cut to a social services and a tax cut for the wealthy they didn't like at the expense of national debt. Heck, even W didn't put the Iraq War on the books.

    -- Posted by helped_myself on Tue, Jan 16, 2018, at 7:21 AM
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