Mayor Eddie DeLoach announced today that the City of Savannah has filed a civil lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia, Savannah Division, "after conducting an investigation into the allegedly deceptive marketing of prescription opioid painkillers by more than 20 drug manufacturers and distributors, including the makers of OxyContin and other opioid products," according to a City spokesperson.
Defendants include Purdue Pharma, Teva Pharmaceutical, Cephalon, Johnson & Johnson; Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Endo Health Solutions, Allergan, Watson Laboratories, Actavis, and Mallinckrodt.
The suit also names three of the largest distributors of prescription opioids, McKesson Corporation, AmerisourceBergen Drug Corporation, and Cardinal Health, Inc.
“Like much of the nation, Savannah has felt the sting of the opioid crisis," DeLoach says. We have grieved with each passing death, and suffered losses both here and throughout the State of Georgia as the promise that each life had in store was taken from us too soon due to prescription opioid abuse."
“As Georgia’s oldest city, Savannah has a long and storied history, and has, in many ways, set a shining example in paving the way toward a brighter future for the people of our city and state. We owe it to our citizens to set the standard now and do all that we can to protect them as we find our way out of this urgent public health crisis," the Mayor says.
"The opioid epidemic has negatively affected many aspects of our city, including financially, as we are forced to allocate an increasing amount of resources to law enforcement, public health, public assistance, emergency care and other services to those in need and impacted by this epidemic. Everything that we have learned about the opioid crisis points to the pharmaceutical industry as being largely responsible for where we are today. If someone must step up in order to help put a stop to the devastation that opioid abuse has inflicted on our nation, state, and city, Savannah is proud to do so.”
The City says that the opioid crisis impacts in Savannah and Georgia include:
× Georgia has an opioid prescription rate of 90.7 per 100 persons, which ranks eighteenth in the country (U.S. median rate: 82.5).
× According to the CDC, from 2001 to 2015, Georgia’s death rate due to opioid overdoses increased nearly 400 percent.
× The rate of opioid prescriptions per 100 persons in Chatham County is "far greater than the national average," with the County experiencing an annual rate as high as 104.5 opioid prescriptions per 100 persons within the County between 2006-2016, averaging 96 opioid prescriptions per 100 persons within the County during that period.
The suit alleges these companies engaged in false and deceptive marketing regarding the risks of using opioid painkillers, downplayed the serious risk of addiction, and unlawfully distributed opioids into Savannah without reporting or stopping suspicious orders.
The city alleges the Defendants created a public nuisance, violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), were negligent, violated the Georgia Deceptive Trade Practices Act, made False Statement in Advertising and violated a Legal Duty Owed to the City of Savannah.
The lawsuit seeks the costs to abate the opioid epidemic created by the defendants’ conduct.
Additionally, the City seeks compensatory damages for its costs related to the opioid epidemic, and punitive damages from the defendants.
The suit claims that major manufacturers of prescription opioids, in order to expand their market and profits, orchestrated a deceptive marketing scheme to change the perception of opioids to permit and encourage the use of opioids long-term for widespread chronic conditions.
The city is represented by Brooks Stillwell and Jennifer Herman of the Office of the City Attorney, John Suthers and Adam Harper of Suthers Law Firm in Savannah, and Joe Rice, Linda Singer, Lisa Saltzburg and Elizabeth Smith of Motley Rice LLC of Mt. Pleasant, SC and Washington, DC.