Federal lawsuit filed in Arkansas against pharmaceutical companies

The Association of Arkansas Counties has filed a federal lawsuit against several pharmaceutical companies to recoup money paid out of its health insurance fund for members' opioid prescriptions.
The association works for the improvement of county government across Arkansas, serving as one voice for the state's 75 counties. The lawsuit seeks damages to recoup the costs for excessive prescriptions and the resulting addiction and treatment costs.According to an article on the association's website https://www.arcounties.org/media/news/group-of-arkansas-counties-seeks-payout-in-opioid-suit/, the suit alleges the manufacturers and distributors of the drugs embarked on an illegal marketing campaign to misrepresent the drugs' effects, leading to abuse and overprescription.In a November interview with KTLO, Classic Hits and the Boot news Baxter County Judge Mickey Pendergrass said the County Judge Association's Executive Board met with legal representatives at the Association of Arkansas Counties (AAC) headquarters to share ideas addressing the issue.

Thirteen defendants are named in the Arkansas cases. They are: Purdue Pharma Inc., The Purdue Frederick Company, Cephalon Inc., Pharmaceuticals USA Inc., Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc., Johnson & Johnson, Endo Health Solutions Inc., Watson Laboratories Inc., Actavis Pharma Inc., Actavis LLC, Amerisourcebergen Drug Corporation, Cardinal Health Inc. and McKesson Corporation.

The same group of attorneys who filed the case submited another one with the same claims on behalf of the Arkansas Municipal League and its health benefit fund. While that lawsuit was voluntarily dismissed by the Municipal League for technical fixes, attorneys say it will be refiled soon.

The lawsuits say the league's and association's insurance funds "have unnecessarily spent money on opioid prescriptions for chronic pain" and "spent tens of millions more on costs directly attributable to the flood of opioids defendants unleashed on the state, including costs for addiction treatment and the treatment of babies born addicted to opioids."

According to statistics, gathered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Arkansas has the second highest rate in the nation at 114.6 retail opioid prescriptions dispensed per 100 persons at both the state and county level.

Pendergrass says 2016 statistics also show 175 Americans die each day and 5,000 opioid overdoses occur daily. For every 30 overdoses, one person dies.

Pendergrass says some pharmaceutical companies are a big part of the problem.



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The lawyer team representing the two government groups also plans to file lawsuits on behalf of individual cities and counties in Arkansas alleging unique damages for each, in an effort to recoup losses the localities have suffered in responding to the nationwide opioid epidemic in their jurisdictions.

The lawsuits to be filed on behalf of Arkansas localities are similar to the roughly 100 others filed by towns, counties and states all across the U.S.

Pendergrass encourages the destruction of unused prescriptions. He hopes the future will see doctors and dentists prescribing alternatives to opiates and increased public awareness throughout the entire educational system.

Locally, Baxter Regional Medical Center has a center for opiate and alcohol detoxification called First Step. They manage acute withdrawal symptoms and refer clients to organizations that can get them help.

First Step manager Kristy Stufflebeam says they see an average of 10 clients a month, however the amount of calls they have received has increased since the center opened in 2008.

Stufflebeam says the prognosis for those addicted to opioids is positive, if long-term treatment is obtained.

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