Three Southern Nevada cities filed lawsuits last week against opioid manufacturers and distributors.
Lawsuits from Las Vegas, Henderson and North Las Vegas — filed Thursday in Clark County District Court — name a lengthy list of defendants, including Purdue Pharma, Teva Pharmaceuticals, CVS, Walgreens and Walmart.
Each case will be handled individually in court.
“These drug companies, in their greedy pursuit of bigger profits, knowingly and deceptively created a public health epidemic that has had evil impacts on our community and residents, and for their selfish actions, we will hold them accountable,” North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee said in a statement.
The lawsuits claim that drug makers falsely portrayed the negative effects of opioids and increased sales by pushing prescriptions, despite knowing the drugs were addictive and unsafe for long-term use. The goal for drug companies, according to the lawsuits, was to convince doctors that opioids were not just safe for severe, short-term pain, but for chronic issues such as back pain, headaches and arthritis.
The trio of roughly 90-page lawsuits also argue distributors failed to effectively control the flow of drugs into Southern Nevada.
Robert Eglet, whose firm is representing the state of Nevada and cities in the Las Vegas Valley in separate lawsuits, said in a statement that drug companies had shipped more than 1.3 billion pills to Southern Nevada between 2006 and 2012.
Nevada announced in June that it had filed a lawsuit accusing drug makers and distributors of spreading the opioid crisis in the state. Las Vegas, Henderson and North Las Vegas claim to have felt financial burden from the public health issue.
“It was defendants’ marketing — and not any medical breakthrough — that rationalized prescribing opioids for chronic pain and opened the floodgates of opioid use and abuse,” the lawsuits state. “The result has been catastrophic.”
Eglet estimates damages against the state, counties and cities to be more than $4 billion. City attorneys in Southern Nevada will work with Eglet’s firm on the case.
“The (drug) companies have and continue to cause significant harm to Southern Nevada,” he said in a statement. “We plan to force these companies to pay for the damage they have done.”
In a statement, Purdue Pharma, maker of OxyContin, denied the allegations in the lawsuits and said it would continue defending itself against “misleading attacks.”
“We believe that no pharmaceutical manufacturer has done more to address the opioid addiction crisis than Purdue, and since 2000, we have pursued more than 60 different initiatives in collaboration with governments and law enforcement agencies on this difficult social issue,” the company said.
A family medicine doctor in Northern Nevada was sentenced to one year in prison Monday for over prescribing oxycodone and hydrocodone without a legitimate medical purpose, the U.S. Department of Justice said.
Shouping Li, 57, pleaded guilty in February to distribution of a controlled substance. Li, the former vice chief of staff for a hospital in Winnemucca, was also sentenced to three years of supervised release.
Li admitted to prescribing high doses of the drugs to patients outside the usual course of his practice and without a legitimate reason, according to the department. He also admitted that several of his patients died while under his care, the department said.