Judge Dismisses Four of Five Drugmakers From Chicago Opioid Lawsuit

May 18, 2015

A federal judge has dismissed Teva, Johnson & Johnson, Endo Health Solutions and Actavis from a lawsuit filed by the city of Chicago alleging use of deceptive marketing to sell opioid-based drugs. Two complaints against a fifth company, Purdue Pharma, will proceed.

The four drugmakers, however, may not be in the clear, as Judge Jorge L. Alonso gave the city 30 days to amend the dismissed claims. If it fails to do so, those claims will be dismissed with prejudice.

The claims against Purdue, maker of Oxycontin (oxycodone) and Dilaudid (hydromorphone), stem from charges in 2005 that the drugmaker made misstatements about opioids on its websites to persuade Chicago doctors to prescribe the drugs and consumers to take them. Purdue attorney Richard Silbert says the company is pleased that Alonso dismissed nine of the 11 claims against the company.

Chicago’s suit, City of Chicago v. Purdue Pharma, et al, alleges that the five companies created, supported and directed a network of front groups to promote the treatment of chronic pain using opioids over other alternatives.

Teva manufactures Actiq (fentanyl) and Fentora (fentanyl buccal tablets); J&J makes Duragesic (fentanyl transdermal system) and Nucynta (tadentadol extended-release tablets); Endo makes Opana (oxymorphone), Percodan (aspirin and oxycodone) and Percocet (acetaminophen and oxycodone); and Actavis makes Kadian (morphine sulfate extended-release) and generic versions of Duragesic and Opana.

Chicago provides prescription drug coverage to its employees under the city’s self-insurance health plans.

The lawsuit also accuses the companies’ marketing campaigns of promoting doctors who favor opioid use to treat chronic pain as experts. In return for their support of opioids, the doctors received money, prestige, recognition, research funding and publishing opportunities which allowed them to exert even more influence in the medical community, the complaint says.

In dismissing claims against the four drugmakers, Alonzo said Chicago had failed to produce sufficient information to go forward — specifically, that the city hadn’t named any doctor or consumer affected by Actavis’ alleged misrepresentations and that it had not explained what editorial control Teva, Endo and J&J had over materials they allegedly sponsored or funded.

Read the judge’s ruling at www.fdanews.com/05-13-15-chicago-lawsuit.pdf. — John Bechtel