Lawsuit filed against Big Pharma companies in Texas over opioid crisis

President Donald J. Trump, joined by First Lady Melania Trump, addresses guests before he signed a Presidential Memorandum ordering the Acting Secretary of Health and Human Services to declare the opioid crisis a national public health emergency | October 26, 2017 (Official White House Photo by Andrea Hanks)

100 Americas each day die from drug overdoses

President Trump declares national opioid crisis

A lawsuit consisting of 244 pages filed Friday in a state court for Maverick County, Texas against 24 of the major pharmaceutical companies in the United States is just the beginning of a national consortium of litigation against Big Pharma and the opioid crisis in America.

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“Our goal is to recover for Maverick County the money that is spent (on opioid industry to combat epidemic),” said attorney Luis Roberto Vera, Jr. today. “We will litigate this as strongly as possible.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the total “economic burden” of prescription opioid misuse alone in the United States is $78.5 billion a year, including the costs of healthcare, lost productivity, addiction treatment, and criminal justice involvement.

Attorney Luis Roberto Vera, Jr.
(Photo by Jack Dennis)

Maverick County, with a population closing in on 57,000, followed the lawsuit filed in late September for Upshur County, with a population about 40,000. Also seeking to recoup an unspecified amount in financial damages, the East Texas county contends the drug companies largely “ignored science and consumer health for profits,” noting that they continue “to spend large sums combatting the public health crisis created by [a] negligent and fraudulent marketing campaign.”

Last Thursday, while announcing he was appointing a special commission on the crisis, President Donald Trump declared a nationwide emergency to address the surging human and financial toll of opioid addiction. In 2015, drug overdoses outnumbered deaths from auto accidents or guns, with opioids account for more than 60 percent of overdose deaths. That death toll has quadrupled over the past two decades.

“Beyond the shocking death toll, the terrible measure of the opioid crisis includes the families ripped apart and, for many communities, a generation of lost potential and opportunity,” Trump said. “The number of infants born with opioid dependence has more than quadrupled in the past decade.  Nearly 100 Americans, on average, die each day from opioid overdoses, and overdose rates are highest among people between 25 to 54 years old, robbing so many of our young people of their potential.”

“We have found over the last 25 years since I have been a lawyer, the theme continues whether it’s the tobacco, or asbestos, and now Big Pharma, unfortunately companies putting human lives second to their profit,” said attorney Patrick Haines, of Napoli Shkolnik law firm offices in Austin. “And today is the first day where Maverick County gets to draw the line and say ‘no more, we are not going to be taken advantage of.”

“Remember opium is a fancy word for synthetic heroin,” Haines, who is partnering with Vera on this issue, said. “It’s just heroin made by man.”

The attorneys explained that large pharmaceutical companies, in an effort to expand their sales during the 1990s, reassured the medical community that patients would not become addicted to prescription opioid pain relievers for conditions like arthritis, and “chronic injuries that left them incapacitated at a young age and now have to take opioids to treat their pain.”

The result was that healthcare providers began to prescribe them at greater rates. This subsequently led to widespread diversion and misuse of these medications.

“Last year, we lost at least 64,000 Americans to overdoses.  That’s 175 lost American lives per day.  That’s seven lost lives per hour in our country.  Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of unintentional death in the United States by far.

More people are dying from drug overdoses today than from gun homicides and motor vehicles combined.  Think of it — motor vehicle crashes, gun homicides, more people by far from drug overdoses. 

These overdoses are driven by a massive increase in addiction to prescription painkillers, heroin, and other opioids.  Last year, almost 1 million Americans used heroin, and more than 11 million abused prescription opioids.  The United States is by far the largest consumer of these drugs, using more opioid pills per person than any other country by far in the world.  Opioid overdose deaths have quadrupled since 1999 and now account for the majority of fatal drug overdoses.  Who would have thought?” — President Donald J. Trump, Oct. 26, 2017

President Donald J. Trump, joined by First Lady Melania Trump, signs a Presidential Memorandum ordering the Acting Secretary of Health and Human Services to declare the opioid crisis a national public health emergency | October 26, 2017 (Official White House Photo by Andrea Hanks)

So far, opioid related lawsuits have been filed by the Cherokee Nation and in West Virginia at the state and federal court levels against various major drug companies.

Last year, Texas had 1,107 accidental opioid poisoning deaths. Politically, this can become a challenge for Governor Greg Abbott, on April 6, 2017 spoke at the McKesson Corporation’s campus in Irving. McKesson is one of the largest drug distributors in the nation included in the lawsuits and Abbott’s office granted McKesson $9.75 million to help build the campus. Texas has since joined a 41-state investigation into whether McKesson and other drug companies helped fuel an opioid addiction crisis.

The Maverick County Commissioners Court decided to take this action during their Oct. 10, 2017 public hearing. They entered a contract with the legal partnership team of Luis Roberto Vera, Jr. & Associates, Maverick County’s General Counsel from San Antonio, and the New York City-headquartered personal injury law firm of Napoli Shkolnick, P.C.  The firms will represent and pursue litigation against various pharmaceutical companies on behalf of Maverick County taxpayers for the Opiod crisis within the county as well as the United States.

Luis Roberto Vera, Jr. & Associates of San Antonio is a civil law firm that represents voting rights, election law, civil rights, family law, personal injury law, and civil litigation in Texas.  Founder and partner Luis Roberto Vera, Jr. currently represents Maverick County and other Maverick County Officials in the SB 4 “Sanctuary Law” federal lawsuit in San Antonio, Texas and the United States Firth Circuit Court of Appeals. Vera is also national general counsel for the Leaugue of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC)) and a close political ally of Maverick County Judge David Saucedo.

“This epidemic is a national health emergency, unlike many of us we’ve seen and what we’ve seen in our lifetimes.  Nobody has seen anything like what’s going on now.

As Americans, we cannot allow this to continue.  It is time to liberate our communities from this scourge of drug addiction.  Never been this way.  We can be the generation that ends the opioid epidemic.  We can do it.  We can do it.  

That is why, effective today, my administration is officially declaring the opioid crisis a national public health emergency under federal law, and why I am directing all executive agencies to use every appropriate emergency authority to fight the opioid crisis.  This marks a critical step in confronting the extraordinary challenge that we face.” — President Trump, Oct. 26, 2017


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