Northampton joins national lawsuit against major drug companies in light of opioid epidemic

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Cassie Follman, News Editor

Northampton joined the national lawsuit against various opioid distributors and manufacturers on Feb. 21. The development comes in light of the recent announcement that popular opioid OxyContin will no longer be suggested to doctors in the state.

Ravaged by the opioid epidemic, Massachusetts has experienced the devastating consequences of opioid addiction and high amounts of opioid-related deaths. Located in one of the worst areas for opioid addiction, Western Massachusetts, Northampton is particularly aware of the effects opioids have on the community.

Mayor David Narkewicz told The Daily Hampshire Gazette, “Obviously, the opioid epidemic has had a significant impact on Northampton. … Not only have countless individual lives been affected, but the city has been affected as well in terms of the resources we have devoted to addressing the issues being created.”

Amongst the drug companies named in the lawsuit are, “Purdue Pharma, Teva, Cephalon, Johnson & Johnson, Janssen, Endo, Allergan, Watson and various subsidiaries,” reports The New York Times. The distributors are, “McKesson, Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen.”

The Sophian previously reported on Purdue Pharma’s decision lay off employees and halt recommending OxyContin to doctors for prescriptions. The article discussed the issue of opioid addiction and explained the scrutiny Purdue Pharma faced prior to halting recommendations of OxyContin.

Many cities across the country have also joined the lawsuit, including New York City and Philadelphia. The Times reports, “The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in State Supreme Court in Manhattan, alleges that the opioid crisis was caused by the deceptive marketing of drugmakers, and by distributors bringing large amounts of prescription painkillers into the New York market.”

The Atlantic reports, “[the lawsuit] accuses the companies of spending millions on marketing campaigns that ‘trivialize the risks of opioids while overstating the benefits of using them for chronic pain.’ The companies, the lawsuit alleges, lobbied doctors to influence their opinions about the safety of opioids, ‘borrowing a page from Big Tobacco.’” Just as the Tobacco industry deceived citizens in the 90’s about the health effects of their products, the lawsuits allege that these drug companies did the same with opioids.

The lawsuit’s goal for Northampton is to help fight opioid addiction in the area through reducing the availability of the drugs and possibly receive compensation for damages. The Gazette reports, “If damages are awarded, the money would reimburse a city or town for costs incurred fighting addiction, and abate future costs of handling the public health crisis.”

The lawsuit includes both major cities and small communities, most of them based in the Northeast and Midwest. Other cities in the Western Massachusetts area have joined the lawsuit, such as Greenfield and Easthampton.