Parkland Joins Texas-Based Opioid Lawsuit Against Pharma Companies

Parkland Health and Hospital System is among 29 public and private hospitals in Texas that have filed a civil lawsuit against manufacturers, distributors, and retailers of opioids.

The Dallas County complaint accuses the defendants of negligence, fraud, and civil conspiracy, which include Irving-based McKesson Corp., Purdue Pharma, Johnson and Johnson, and  40 other companies and individuals in the pharmaceutical industry. Last month, an Oklahoma judge ruled that Johnson and Johnson should pay the state $572 million for obscuring the dangers and overpromising the benefits of opioids. It was one of 2,000 similar lawsuits nationwide, and now Texas has joined the chorus demanding accountability from the pharmaceutical companies and distributors.

The filing claims that the defendants deceived physicians with misleading marketing materials to increase prescriptions, leading to massive increases in addiction, suffering, and death. DEA statistics say that 5.4 billion hydrocodone and oxycodone pills made their way to Texas between 2006 and 2012, and in Dallas County, enough opioids were prescribed to give every resident of Dallas County 28 pills per year over that time period. In other counties, that number was up to 88 pills per year per resident.

The defendants “relentlessly and methodically—but untruthfully—asserted that the risk of addiction was low when opioids were used to treat chronic pain and overstated the benefits and trivialized the risk of the longterm use of opioids,” the filing reads.

It details past rulings against many of the defendants, at one point saying that Irving-based McKesson’s “deliberate disregard of its obligations was especially flagrant.”

The lawsuit says that Texas experienced a 300 percent increase in opioid-related deaths between 1999 and 2015, where 14,171 opioid-related deaths were reported. 2016 and 2017 saw over 1300 opioid-related deaths as well. According to the CDC, the overdose death rate is as high as it ever has been in the U.S.

“Texas hospitals are on the front lines of an epidemic that creates an enormous financial burden,” said Darren Nicholson, of Burns Charest LLP in Dallas, one of the lead attorneys for the plaintiffs, via release. “Because they are the key dealing with this public health crisis, they should also receive any funds resulting from litigation and settlements by these defendants. Texas hospitals will be dealing with this epidemic for decades.

The plaintiffs come from all over the state, including medical centers in Granbury and Hillsboro as well as the border, and East Texas. As in Oklahoma, the lawsuit hopes to recoup some of the costs incurred by the hospital systems to treat opioid-related addiction over the past 20 years, much of which was not reimbursed. Between modified services, additional security, and specialized training, the costs have been adding up.

“Many entities, including states and municipalities, have filed suits to force opioid manufacturers and distributors through the courts to pay for the harm they have caused,” said Nicholson. “While those suits have merit, the financial and operational damage that Texas hospitals have experienced is acute, and the law requires that these organizations assert their own claims.”

Read the entire filing here.