CAPITAL REGION — Lawsuits were filed by four municipalities in the state against opioid manufacturers and distributors on Tuesday, including Schenectady, according to a press release.
The legal actions were filed on behalf of the cities of Schenectady, Albany, Plattsburgh and Troy by the Dreyer Boyajian LaMarche Safranko PLLC law firm. They were filed in four state Supreme Court jurisdictions, each located in the municipalities that are party to the lawsuit.
“Opioid addiction and drug-related deaths have devastated families and communities all across the country,” Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy said in a prepared statement. “This epidemic has placed significant burdens on municipal resources, including the city of Schenectady, overwhelming drug treatment centers and emergency responders. I am proud to stand with my upstate colleagues taking this action today in state Supreme Court.”
Don Boyajian, an attorney with the firm, said all of the cases will be transferred to the state Supreme Court in Suffolk County.
The defendants named in the suits are Purdue Pharma, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, Cephalon Inc., Johnson & Johnson, Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc., Endo International plc, McKesson Corporation, Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen Drug Corporation.
The lawsuit accuses those companies of knowingly misleading doctors and patients into believing that opioid drugs were safe and were rarely addictive in order to increase sales of the drugs, according to the release. It also alleges those companies failed to report any suspicious purchases of opioids.
Drugs such as morphine, hydrocodone and oxycodone are considered opioids.
The opioid crisis has put what the lawsuit referred to as “a significant financial strain” on municipal budgets when it comes to fighting the epidemic. They include costs for first responders, law enforcement, criminal justice, lost productivity, health care, and education and prevention programs.
Schenectady County officials previously reported there were 55 overdose deaths between 2009 and 2013. It also said there were 529 opioid abuse-related hospital admissions in 2014.
There were 19,000 deaths in the U.S. in 2014, a number that has quadrupled from the previous 15 years, according to a government report. That number grew to 25,000 in 2015.
Boyajian said the amount of damages still needs to be calculated by each of the individual cities. He said the amount would vary from city to city.
“The other issue is the need in the future to develop programs to address the problem,” Boyajian said. “[The request for damages] will not just be to recoup money for past expenditures, but to create a sufficient fund to tackle the problem proactively.”
The Schenectady City Council approved a resolution in March that allowed the city to enter into a lawsuit against opioid manufacturers and distributors.
Boyajian said the legal action is being done at no cost to the city. He would only get paid if the city were to win.