Indianapolis hires law firm to pursue legal action against opioid manufacturers, distributors

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The city of Indianapolis has hired a law firm to pursue legal action against opioid distributors and manufacturers as Marion County deals with an ongoing drug crisis.

The city hired Cohen and Malad, LLP to handle the case. Mayor Joe Hogsett said the companies must be held accountable for their role in the dramatic rise of opioid addiction.

“The companies contributing to this crisis have failed in their duty to be responsible gatekeepers,” Hogsett said.

He suggested that the companies valued “profits over people” and allowed opioids to proliferate. Hogsett said many of those struggling with addiction sought pain relief and were prescribed addiction instead, with many of them eventually turning to heroin. That has led to increased crime and fatal overdoses–with 345 deaths in 2016 attributed to drug overdoses in Marion County.

“Opioids are killing Hoosiers,” Hogsett said. “Opioids are killing our neighbors right here throughout the city of Indianapolis.”

Hogsett said opioids have been manufactured and prescribed for two decades without sufficient warning about their addictive qualities and long-term risks.

“Men and women, young men and young women, mothers, fathers, professionals, community members–they all sought relief from pain and were instead administered addiction,” Hogsett said.

Attorney Irwin Levin said the companies have caused irreparable damage to cities and counties. He added that this isn’t a class action suit, but rather one filed on behalf of the city–the firm would only get paid if the city won the lawsuit.

Levin said likely defendants would include Purdue Pharma, Endo Health, Teva and distributors such as AmerisourceBergen, McKesson Corporation and Cardinal Health. He said it’s time for them to be held accountable.

“These potential defendants spread the false message that opioids were safe for chronic pain and not addictive,” he said. “They were at the top of the chain of distribution and saw, unquestionably, suspicious orders of opioids but turned a blind eye to their legal duties and obligations to stop and report those orders.”

Levin said 75 to 100 similar lawsuits have been filed across the country, some of which have been successfully litigated.

Hogsett said the lawsuit is another tool in a “holistic approach” that the city is taking toward criminal justice reform. Other tools include the Reuben Engagement center, a mobile crisis team and expanded treatment options.