A landmark legal case may be on the horizon amid the Long Island’s continuing struggle against opioid abuse and addiction. The county is looking to hire outside law firm Simmons Hanly Conroy LLC, the same firm hired by neighboring Suffolk, to increase oversight of marketing practices commonly used by opioid manufacturers. Suffolk used the firm to sue 11 pharmaceutical companies and four doctors in State Supreme Court. County leaders said the defendants fraudulently and misleadingly marketed the painkillers, leading to increased public costs to deal with an addiction epidemic. The suit is pending. If pushed forward, it can change the conversation regarding the sales and marketing of prescription painkillers.
Nassau is currently determining the feasibility of this examination, and weather or not they can prove marketing and sales practices directly caused the spike in overdose deaths. In a statement, County Executive Edward Mangano said local governments such as Nassau “have spent millions of dollars in costs related to opioid addiction and abuse including health care costs, criminal justice and victimization and lost productivity.” Should the contract between the firm and the county be finalized, it would include an examination of both opioid manufacturers and prescribing physicians. Many believe that irresponsible prescribing practices are also contributing to the increase.
While it would be the first of its kind in the area, the suit would not be without precedent. The state of Mississippi, the city of Chicago and two California counties have sued drugmakers over the past several years, alleging fraudulent marketing of addictive painkillers and asking manufacturers to help bear the public costs of the epidemic. A record 442 people on Long Island — 232 in Suffolk and 210 in Nassau — died in 2015 of opiate overdoses, up from 403 in 2014, according to the Nassau and Suffolk county medical examiners’ offices.