On December 5, 2017, the United States Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation formally approved the National Prescription Opiate Litigation, MDL No. 2804. Assigned to Judge Daniel Polster of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, the litigation relates to the manufacturing, marketing, distribution and sales practices of prescription opioid drugs by “Big Pharma” drug makers and distributors. On January 3, 2018, Judge Polster named Lieff Cabraser partner Elizabeth Cabraser to the 16-member Plaintiffs’ Executive Committee in the coordinated litigation. Lieff Cabraser also serves on the the Settlement Committee and on the Tribal Committee in the coordinated federal multidistrict opiate litigation.
Plaintiffs in the more than 100 lawsuits involved in the centralization are cities, counties and states that claim the makers of opioid pain medication overstated the drugs’ benefits and downplayed their risks while marketing them to doctors. The aggregated action includes suits against drug distributors, which many of the various governments say failed to monitor and report suspicious drug orders.
Defendants include Purdue Pharma, Cephalon, Teva Pharmaceutical, Johnson & Johnson, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Noramco Inc., Endo Health Solutions, Mallinckrodt, Allergan, Actavis, Watson Pharmaceuticals, Insys Therapeutics, AmerisourceBergen Drug Corporation, Cardinal Health, and additional affiliated businesses and entities.
The actions variously allege that manufacturers of prescription opioid medications overstated the benefits and downplayed the risks of the use of their opioids and aggressively marketed (directly and through key opinion leaders) these drugs to physicians and/or that the distributors failed to monitor, detect, investigate, refuse and report suspicious orders of prescription opiates. The coordinated actions involve common factual questions about the manufacturing and distributor defendants’ knowledge of and conduct regarding the alleged diversion of these prescription opiates, as well as the manufacturers’ alleged improper marketing of such drugs.
Lieff Cabraser represents the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees District Council 37 Health & Security Plan (“DC 37”) in the litigation. DC 37 is a non-profit health, self-funded, and welfare benefit plan covering public sector employees, retirees and their families. It is based in New York City, and is the City’s largest public employee union, covering approximately 125,000 active union members from 51 local unions as well as 50,000 retirees and their families—totaling over 300,000 lives. Members covered by DC 37’s benefit plan work in almost every agency in New York City including but not limited to the City’s police and fire departments, hospitals, schools, libraries, social service centers, water treatment facilities, and city colleges. DC 37’s case alleges the creation of a conspiracy and conduct of an illegal enterprise to expand the market for opioids, and seeks class action status for a class defined as:
All health insurance companies, third-party administrators, health maintenance organizations, self-funded health and welfare benefit plans, third-party payors and any other health benefit providers, in the United States of America and its territories, who have, from the inception of Defendants’ course of allegedly RICO-violative conduct as alleged herein, through a date to be established by the Court (such as the date of approval of class notice), paid or incurred costs for prescription opioids manufactured, marketed, sold, or distributed by the Defendants, for purposes other than resale.