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Howard County Sues Opioid Makers and Distributors in Circuit Court

Howard County Sues Opioid Makers and Distributors in Circuit Court

 May 17, 2019

Media Contact:
Scott Peterson, Director of Communications, Office of Public Information, 202-277-9412

ELLICOTT CITY, MD – Howard County has submitted a formal complaint against Purdue Pharma L.P., and other opioid manufacturers, as well as opioid distributors, in the Circuit Court for Howard County for their alleged role in the opioid epidemic. 

“Last year in our county we lost 38 lives to opioids. Since 2016, more than 130 people have died in Howard County from an opioid overdose. That’s more than 130 of our brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters. These tragedies are unacceptable,” said Howard County Executive Calvin Ball. “We believe opioid companies have, for too long, knowingly deceived the public and manufactured a public health crisis. We must put a stop to their model of profiting off of our neighbors and loved ones.”

A statement in the complaint reads, Howard County, “like many other communities across the country, is struggling with an opioid crisis.  Unlike the crack cocaine and crystal methamphetamine epidemics that preceded it, this drug crisis began with a corporate business plan. It started with a decision by Purdue Pharma L.P., and its corporate family (collectively, “Purdue”), to promote opioids deceptively and illegally to significantly increase sales and generate billions of dollars in revenue for Purdue’s private owners, the Sackler family. Unfortunately, Purdue’s strategies were quickly adopted by other pharmaceutical manufacturers… As a direct consequence, the rampant use, overuse, and abuse of opioids has overwhelmed much of the country, including Howard County and its residents. Howard County brings this action to redress Defendants’ campaign of unfairly, deceptively, and fraudulently marketing, promoting, and distributing opioids.” 

According to the allegations contained in the County’s complaint, these drug makers and sellers have

  • Failed to disclose the known, serious risk of addiction 
  • Continued to tell doctors that opioids could be taken in ever higher doses without disclosing their greater risks     
  • Conducted fraudulent, illegal, and misleading marketing schemes 
  • Deliberately disregarded their duties to identify, report and terminate suspicious orders   
  •  Hid their lack of cooperation with law enforcement and falsely claimed to be actively working to prevent diversion
  • Worked together to sustain their market and boost their profits         
  • Ignored red flags of abuse and diversion           
  • Collectively fueled the opioid epidemic and significantly harmed Howard County and its residents

The County intends to pursue its claims aggressively and expects a protracted legal fight with the drug companies.

“As the opioid crisis continues to take the lives of our neighbors and their families in Howard County, opioid manufacturers and distributors have spread lies and profited off the public health emergency that they helped to create. No corporation or entity should be exploiting people for monetary gain,” said Howard County Council Chair Christiana Mercer Rigby. “I am fully supportive of our Office of Law’s claims against Purdue, and I thank County Executive Ball for his leadership in this fight against the opioid epidemic.”

“Howard County has not been immune to the opioid epidemic affecting the rest of the state and the nation,” said Howard County Police Department Chief Lisa Myers. “It impacts our personnel every day as they respond to call after call for overdoses. This crisis has had a significant impact on officers, who are routinely working to save lives with naloxone and help make an impact on reducing these tragedies in our community.”

“The epidemic of opioid addiction and overdose has had an unparalleled effect on Howard County Fire and Rescue’s daily operations, like no other preventable condition we’ve seen in recent times,” said Howard County Department of Fire and Rescue Services Chief Christine M. Uhlhorn. “The toll of this situation extends well past the emergency call and has affected our personnel personally, professionally, and operationally.”

The cost of the opioid epidemic is not simply reflected in the hours or resources committed to the battle,” said Howard County Health Officer Dr. Maura J. Rossman. “It is about the tragedy of lives lost for profit and holding people accountable.”

On May 2, Ball also announced a comprehensive strategy for addressing the opioid epidemic in Howard County, starting with the opening of Howard House for treatment of substance use disorders. The next step will be building a new, residential treatment center through a partnership with Delphi Behavioral Health Group. The center will serve women and men of all income levels to help them move toward full recovery. Ball has committed $3 million over four years to form this first-of-its-kind partnership in the state between a local jurisdiction and a private treatment provider.

Earlier this year, he announced 24/7 crisis services at Grassroots, continuing proper emergency room referrals to peer recovery specialists, funding for behavioral health navigators at both the hospital and Health Department, and continuing to support naloxone training and distribution across the county. In addition, the Howard County Police Department monitors and maintains four prescription drop boxes throughout the County where unwanted medications can be dropped off. The boxes are located in the following buildings:  Northern District Station, Southern District Station, Gary Arthur Community Center, and the Community Outreach Office. Ball plans to strengthen community partnerships with the Opioid Crisis Community Council, the Opioid Intervention Team, emergency responders, providers and most importantly friends and family.

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