Onondaga County to Sue Opioid Drug Makers Over "Misleading Information"

Jul 27, 2017

Onondaga County wants to go after the manufacturers of opioids in court.
Credit CREDIT UPSTATE.EDU/POISON/NEWS/HEROIN-DATA.PHP / UPSTATE MEDICAL UNIVERSITY

Onondaga County Lawmakers are preparing to file a lawsuit against opioid drug manufacturers for what they maintain is misleading information about the drugs that has fueled the county’s opioid and heroin epidemic.  Syracuse University School of Law Professor Nina Kohn says even if the county shows the drug manufacturer’s engaged in deceptive behavior, the court could still find they’re not legally responsible.

“These cases are long shots, the county needs to show not only that the manufactures engaged in wrongful behavior they also have to overcome possible defenses that the opioid manufactures have.”

Kohn says the allegations being made against the manufacturers are very significant, but she says Onondaga is not the first County in New York State or the nation to make these allegations.       

“The county - if it filed a suit - would be part of a very large national trend.  States and counties across the country are seeking to hold drug manufactures liable for the opioid epidemic because it’s coasting lives and because it’s draining resources.”

Kohn referred to what she calls high profile settlements that were recently reached in West Virginia and Kentucky.  She says counties are focusing their claims on the manufacturer providing information they know to be misleading.  Some companies, according to Kohn, are cloaking advertisements and marketing material and presenting them as science.

“These lawsuits focus on the information that drug manufactures have put out there about their opioids.  Information that the states and counties are alleging are misleading both the people who are consuming these drugs, but also the doctors who are prescribing them.  And that information is causing doctors to write people prescription that end up hurting them.” 

She adds the success of these suits against opioid manufacturers ultimately depends on what the court decides.  There could also be other impacts separately from any court judgements.

“If these suits cause drug manufactures to provide doctors and patients with better information, that’s a success.  If these suits cause individuals to think twice before thanking opioids for chronic pain management, that may be a success too.“

Numbers from the Onondaga County Health Department show that 29 people died from overdosing on opioids during the first three months of 2017.