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The City of Encinitas Encinitas has filed suit against numerous opioid manufacturers and distributors. File photo
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Encinitas files lawsuit against opioid companies, similar to thousands filed around the country

ENCINITAS — In what appears to be a growing trend throughout California and around the country in response to the opioid crisis, Encinitas has filed a lawsuit against numerous opioid manufacturers and distributors, seeking retribution for losses and damages.

“This legal action is necessary to stem the tide of opioid addiction in our community,” Mayor Catherine Blakespear stated in a news release. “We can no longer stand by and watch our families suffer the consequences of the irresponsible action of these businesses.”

The city, represented by Robins Kaplan LLP, is suing multiple companies and parties in the opioid industry, including the Sacker Family, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries USA Inc., Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc., Endo Pharmaceuticals Inc., Allergan Finance LLC, and Mallinckrodt LLC.

Opioid distributors were also named in the lawsuit, including Cardinal Health Inc., Amerisource Bergen Corporation, and McKessom Corporation.

The term “opioid” includes all drugs derived from the opium poppy. The United States Food and Drug Administration describes opioids as “powerful pain-reducing medications that includes prescription oxycodone, hydrocodone, and morphine, among others, and have both benefits as well as potentially serious risks. These medications can help manage pain when prescribed for the right condition and when used properly, but when misused or abused, opioids can cause serious harm, including addiction, overdose, and death.”

The city is seeking reparations for loss of resources, economic damages, and damages to the health and welfare of its citizens related to the ongoing opioid crisis.

“This lawsuit will seek to recover costs and tax resources taken from the city and its citizens due to the bad acts of the manufacturers and distributors of opioids who caused this ongoing crisis,” said lead outside counsel, Roman Silberfeld of Robins Kaplan LLP.

The lawsuit alleges that manufacturers and distributors of opioids engaged in conduct that directly caused doctors to prescribe overwhelming amounts of opioids and intentionally neglected their obligations to prevent diversion of the highly addictive substance. Specifically, the civil lawsuit includes allegations of public nuisance, fraud, negligence, unjust enrichment, civil conspiracy, false advertising, negligent failure to warn consumers, and fraudulent transfer.

According to statistics from the California Opioid Overdose Surveillance Dashboard as of May of this year, Encinitas was reported to have higher rates of opioid deaths, heroin deaths, and overdose rates than the California and San Diego County averages for 2017.

According to an article this week on vox.com, last month Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, tentatively agreed to pay as much as $12 billion to settle lawsuits it faces for its role in the opioid crisis, the largest settlement related to the epidemic.

The article states that the settlements are part of a federal case in Cleveland in which more than 2,000 lawsuits, largely from various levels of government, have been consolidated in an effort to reach a single landmark legal resolution to the opioid epidemic — forcing not just opioid makers like Purdue but also distributors like CVS and Walgreens to help pay for the drug addiction and overdose crisis.

Another settlement was announced Oct. 21: A $260 million deal that avoided a federal trial pitting two Ohio counties against three pharmaceutical distribution companies — McKesson, Cardinal Health, and AmerisourceBergen — and Israel-based drug maker Teva Pharmaceutical Industries.