May 10, 2018 – Nevada County is one of 30 California counties that have filed litigation against national opioid manufacturers and distributors/retailers for creating an opioid epidemic in this state. These 30 counties represent approximately 10.4 million residents. All 30 counties are filing suit in federal court and expect their cases to be transferred to the Multi-District Litigation in Ohio, where more than 500 public entities have filed similar suits.
The lawsuit seeks reimbursement of taxpayer funds that already have been spent responding to the opioid epidemic in Nevada County; for ongoing costs of continuing the fight, including emergency response, prevention, monitoring and treatment; and for prospective relief to help the County undo some of the widespread damage that these drug manufacturers and distributers have caused.
The opioid epidemic is particularly devastating in Nevada County. According to the California Department of Public Health’s Opioid Overdose Surveillance Dashboard, Nevada County had an opioid overdose death rate of over 9.8 per 100,000 people in 2016, the most recent calendar year for which data is available. According to the same website, in 2016, Nevada County had a rate of 17 emergency department visits due to opioid overdoses (excluding heroin) per 100,000 people and 19 opioid overdose hospitalizations per 100,000 residents – the fourth highest rate in the State that year. According to CDC statistics, the 2016 opioid prescribing rates in Nevada County was 83 per 100 people, well above the overall California prescription rate of 44.8 per 100 people. According to Nevada County Public Health Officer Dr. Ken Cutler, “Unfortunately our community, like many others, has clearly suffered negative public health and safety impacts due to this opioid epidemic. Death and overdoses related to opiate use are all the more tragic because they are preventable.”
Ed Scofield, Chair of the Nevada County Board of Supervisors stated “This litigation is an important tool to help us recover the taxpayer funds currently being used and needed to intervene and respond to this opioid epidemic.”
According to the County’s complaint on file with the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of California, many of the nation’s largest drug manufacturers misinformed doctors about the addictiveness and efficacy of opioids. The manufacturer Defendants include Purdue Pharma; Teva Ltd; Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson); Endo Health Solutions, Inc.; Allergan PLC; and Mallinckrodt. Drugs manufactured by these companies include, but are not limited to: OxyContin, Actiq, Fentora, Duragesic, Nucynta, Nucynta ER, Opana/Opana ER, Percodan, Percocet, Zydone, Kadian and Norco. In addition to the wrongdoing by drug manufacturers, the lawsuit asserts that the nation’s largest drug distributors/retailers failed to monitor, identify and report “suspicious” opioid shipments to pharmacies, in violation of the federal Controlled Substances Act.
The County Counsel’s Office and the following six law firms comprise the County’s legal team: Baron & Budd; Levin, Papantonio, Thomas, Mitchell, Rafferty & Proctor; Powell & Majestro; Greene, Ketchum, Farrell, Bailey & Tweel; Hill, Peterson, Carper, Bee & Deitzler; and McHugh Fuller Law Group. These firms currently represent over 300 cities and counties throughout the United States.
CA Consortium of Counties for the Federal Opioid MDL