93°F
weather icon Partly Cloudy

Nevada broadens lawsuit against opioid manufacturers, retailers

Updated June 17, 2019 - 11:29 pm

Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford filed a lawsuit Monday in Clark County District Court accusing dozens of drug manufacturers and distributors of propagating the state’s deadly opioid epidemic.

The 241-page complaint names more than 40 defendants, including prescription drug makers such as Purdue Pharma and Teva Pharmaceuticals, and distributors including CVS, Walgreens and retail giant Walmart.

It accuses drug manufacturers of pushing doctors to prescribe the addictive medication while downplaying the side effects. It also alleges that distributors supplied many more opioids than justified for the Nevada market, ignoring data that allowed them to track overprescribing.

Opioid lawsuit

“Page after page of this complaint is filled with examples of these defendants orchestrating a conspiracy — up and down the supply chain — to flood our communities with dangerous and addictive drugs,” Ford said at a news conference in Las Vegas.

He said the companies relied on fake science, fake experts, fake publications and an army of salespeople to push the pills in the name of greed as thousands died in the process.

“But it wasn’t just pill manufacturers in on this conspiracy,” Ford said. “We counted on pharmacies and distributors to aid law enforcement by flagging suspicious orders of controlled substances, as they are required to do by the law.

“Instead, they deliberately deceived regulators and law enforcement so that they could keep selling these pills.”

Rural communities hammered

Opioid-related deaths have fallen in Nevada since 2010, from 16.2 deaths per 100,000 residents to 11.4 per 100,000 in 2018, according to a preliminary report from the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services.

But hospitalizations for opioids continued to rise during that period, jumping 94 percent from 2010 to 2018, according the state.

Nevada’s rural communities typically see the highest rates of opioid abuse yet have fewer resources to combat the problem, according to Nye County Commission Chairman John Koenig. In Nye, Mineral and Churchill counties, the number of opioid prescriptions dispensed outnumbered each county’s population in 2017, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We just don’t have the facilities or the money to take care of it,” Koenig said Monday.

Ford said the state stands to collect tens of millions of dollars from the lawsuit, and any money received would be distributed to cash-strapped counties and municipalities to expand local resources. A formula for that distribution is still being worked on, he said Monday.

Purdue denies allegations

Ford hinted that the case could move forward quickly. The attorney general would not give a time frame for the case but said that “we have every intent of pursuing this as expeditiously as possible.”

In a statement, Purdue said that the company “vigorously denies the allegations contained in litigation against the company and will continue to defend itself against these misleading attacks.”

“These sensationalized claims are part of a continuing effort to try these cases in the court of public opinion rather than the justice system, as plaintiffs are unable to connect the conduct alleged to the harm described. Instead, they have invented stunningly overbroad legal theories, which if adopted by courts, will undermine the bedrock legal principle of causation.”

Under former Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt, the state in May 2018 filed a lawsuit with similar allegations solely against Purdue Pharma, well-known for its oxycodone prescription OxyContin.

The state dropped that lawsuit this month, according to court records, replacing it Monday with the latest lawsuit, which is much larger in scope. The new lawsuit also names Purdue Pharma as a defendant, as well as members of the Sackler family, which owns the company.

Several municipalities in Nevada, including North Las Vegas, Reno and Clark and Nye counties have filed separate lawsuits against Purdue. The lawsuit filed Monday still stands to benefit them.

Ford’s former law firm, Eglet Adams, was chosen as outside counsel from a pool of nine other firms by a seven-member selection committee to help the state argue the case. Ford recused himself from the selection process.

Contact Review-Journal Capital Bureau Chief Colton Lochhead at clochhead@reviewjournal.com or 775-461-3820. Follow @ColtonLochhead on Twitter. Contact Rachel Crosby at rcrosby@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3801. Follow @rachelcrosby on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Politics Videos
Bernie Sanders Unveils Affordable Housing Plan - Video
Bernie Sanders sits down with the Las Vegas Review-Journal to talk about his new affordable housing plan he unveiled at Plumbers & Pipefitters.
Jim Marchant talks gun control and Dreamers - Video
Republican Candidate for District 4 Jim Marchant talks about gun control and immigration policies. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Hurricanes, Gender, and Science in the Press
Imagine if the mainstream media’s current hurricane-sized obsession with scientific accuracy applied to gender.
Cory Booker on college tuition and minimum wage
Cory Booker talks on the RJ Politics podcast about college debt, informing workers about their rights and livable wages.
Nevada Politics Today: Teacher raises - VIDEO
Jason Goudie, the chief financial officer for the Clark County School District, talks about teacher pay and raises. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Media's Double Standard On Incitement And Trump - Video
Over the weekend, an Elizabeth Warren-supporting socialist who opposed gun violence used a rifle to commit a mass murder in Dayton, Ohio. The media has downplayed that aspect of the tragedy.
Project Our Care Tour Kicks Off In Las Vegas
U.S. Rep. Dina Titus joined health care advocates and local residents as part of Protect Our Care’s nationwide bus tour kick off in Las Vegas on Monday, August 5, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Bernie Sanders talks about guns, response to El Paso shooting
Sen. Bernie Sanders spoke about his response and continued policy ideas about guns and gun control to the Review-Journal after a panel of other topics. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pete Buttigieg On Gun Control And Climate Change - Video
Pete Buttigieg talks about his campaign for the 2020 election and how Nevada is a vision of what the future can be.
Beto O'Rourke speaks in Las Vegas
Presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke spoke to supporters at the East Las Vegas Community Center in Las Vegas, Thursday, Aug. 2, 2019. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Former Nevada Senate leader Kelvin Atkinson sentenced to prison
Former Nevada Senate Majority Leader Kelvin Atkinson, who pleaded guilty to misusing campaign funds, was sentenced to 27 months in prison on Thursday, July 18, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Trumps Strength is also a Weakness - Video
One of Donald Trump’s greatest strengths — his ability to shape national narratives — is also a great weakness.
Tax the Rich Bus Tour makes a stop in Las Vegas - Video
The Tax the Rich Bus has stopped in Las Vegas as part of its summer tour. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Assemblywoman Daniele Monroe-Moreno hosts BBQ - Video
Assembly Woman Daniele Monroe-Moreno hosts BBQ to bring the community together to hear about the candidates up for election and for people to gather and have fun.
Democrat Virtual Caucus - Video
Elizabeth Warren visits Las Vegas
Senator Elizabeth Warren made a campaign stop at the East Las Vegas Community Center on Tuesday July 2, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Aaron Ford Speaks About Bill AB431
AB431 is a bill sponsored by Nevada Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson to restore the right to vote for formerly incarcerated individuals. Attorney General Aaron Ford spoke at the AM&E Church in North Las Vegas about the bill, on Monday, July 1, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Right Take: Biden's Racially Questionable Comments
Joe Biden has uttered racially charged statements for years. Now that he’s the frontrunner for the Democrat presidential nomination, he may finally face prolonged scrutiny for them.
Christopher Rufo Discusses Homelessness In The USA - VIDEO
Christopher Rufo discusses homelessness in the United States and how politicians can work to improve conditions for those with drug addictions.
THE LATEST
Trump aides heading to Nevada Basque Fry

Several current and former aides to President Donald Trump are headed to the annual Basque Fry, an event sponsored by former Republican Attorney General Adam Laxalt.