More Cook County towns sue over opioids; Edelson again includes doctors to keep court action local

By Dan Churney | Jul 26, 2018

Another group of Cook County communities have launched a lawsuit, which they want to stay in Cook County rather than federal court, against a number of opioid makers, distributors and doctors, alleging they pushed prescription opioids on the public despite knowing the drugs were dangerously addictive.

On July 19 in Cook County Circuit Court, a suit was lodged by the suburban towns of Harvey, Broadview, Chicago Ridge, Dolton, Hoffman Estates, Maywood, Merrionette Park, North Riverside, Orland Park, Posen, River Grove and Stone Park, as well as by the Orland Fire Protection District and downstate Peoria.

Many other opioid suits from around the country have been gathered into one case in Cleveland federal court. An attorney for the Cook County communities said he does not want Cleveland to also be the destination for his suit, where he would have less influence on proceedings.

The suit alleged drug companies, distributors and three Cook County doctors fed the opioid crisis, which has resulted in countless deaths and other untold costs, by engaging in a number of improper activities, including deceptive marketing, misrepresentation of opioid risks and benefits, and excessive prescriptions. 

Defendant drug companies include: Purdue Pharma, of Stamford, Conn.; Cephalon, of Frazer, Penn.; Janssen Pharmaceuticals, of Titusville, N.J.; Insys Therapeutics, of Chandler, Ariz.; Endo Health Solutions, of Malvern, Penn.; Allergan, of Dublin, Ireland; and Mallinckrodt, of the United Kingdom.

Distributor defendants are Cardinal Health, of Dublin, Ohio, AmerisourceBergen, of Chesterbrook, Penn,. and McKesson, of San Francisco. The distributors have warehouses in the Chicago suburbs.

The suit also names doctors Paul Madison, William McMahon and Joseph Giacchino, who ran Riverside Pain Management in Riverside from 2013 to 2017.

The suit alleged that “at the end of the opioid supply chain,” the doctors were “working around the clock to prescribe opioids to anyone who came through the door,” and “whether or not they had a valid need for them.”

The state has revoked the medical licenses of Giacchino and McMahon and suspended Madison’s, according to court papers.

The suit alleged all defendants engaged in a public nuisance, negligence, fraudulent misrepresentation, insurance fraud, unjust enrichment and civil conspiracy, as well as violating the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act

A similar suit against the same defendants was filed May 23 in Cook County Circuit Court by the suburban towns of Melrose Park, Berwyn, Bellwood, Berkeley, Chicago Heights, Hillside, Northlake, Oak Lawn, Tinley Park and River Forest, as well as downstate Pekin.

Plaintiffs in both cases are represented by attorneys with the firm of Edelson P.C., which has offices in Chicago and San Francisco. The firm also lodged a putative class action suit May 2 in Chicago federal court against most of the same drug companies and distributors, but not the doctors, on behalf of individual named plaintiff Barbara Rivers, alleging the opioid crisis jacked up people's health insurance costs.

Proceedings are underway to determine if the Rivers suit is to be consolidated, with a host of other opioid suits from around the country, in Cleveland federal court.

Edelson is trying to avoid this fate for the two suits brought by the two dozen communities, by including the three local doctors in the suits, as a way to anchor the cases in Cook County Circuit Court.

At the time the first lawsuit was filed on behalf of the first collection of municipal defendants, Edelson lawyer Ari Scharg explained that if the suits were only against the companies, the cases could more easily be moved. Scharg added his firm believes they can retain better control of the suits in local circuit court.

None of the defendants have yet replied to any of the suits in court, but John Parker, of Healthcare Distribution Alliance, a trade association for pharmaceutical distributors, said in a press release, “The idea that distributors are responsible for the number of opioid prescriptions written defies common sense and lacks understanding of how the pharmaceutical supply chain actually works and is regulated.”

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Organizations in this Story

Allergan AmerisourceBergen Cardinal Health Cephalon Circuit Court of Cook County City of Harvey City of Peoria Arizona Edelson PC Endo International Insys Therapeutics, Inc Janssen Mallinckrodt Mckesson Corporation Purdue Pharma Village of Broadview Village of Chicago Ridge Village of Dolton Village of Hoffman Estates Village of Maywood Village of Merrionette Park Village of North Riverside Village of Orland Park Village of Posen Village of River Grove Village of Stone Park

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