Louisiana Record

Saturday, August 17, 2019

More than 100 opioid lawsuits have been filed against big pharma in Louisiana

Reform

By Chris Adams | Jul 23, 2019


The opioid epidemic is under legal siege | DEA

Lawsuits filed in the Pelican State, which now exceeds 100, have become part of a docket that contains 2,000 cases from around the nation comprised of municipalities, counties, Native American tribes and a host of other entities. Ohio District Judge Dan Polster presides over the cases consolidated as multi district litigation (MDL) and has worked with both sides toward settlement.

“The federal MDL has brought all the suits by governments of parishes, counties, cities, and towns across the nation before one judge, where the plaintiffs and drug makers have the opportunity to negotiate a global settlement resolving all the suits together,” wrote Margaret Thomas, a professor at law the Louisiana State University law school, via email. 

Some of the Louisiana plaintiffs include the cities of New Orleans, Baton Rouge, the University of Louisiana System, parishes, sheriffs, Blue Cross and Blue Shield reported The Advocate.

The defendants are comprised of drug manufacturers, distributors and pharmacies with Purdue Pharma, producer of the dubious OxyContin, at center stage.

Thomas wrote that state attorneys general have the latitude to opt-in to a settlement tendered by the federal MDL or to decline if they believe it’s in their state’s best interest to pursue the case in its court system.

“This is a fundamental feature of our system of constitutional federalism, leaving the states’ claims before their own state court judges and state court systems,” Thomas wrote.  

Thomas believes the pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors will most likely settle with states but the defendants could be tempted to voluntarily partake in a sweeping federal settlement that encompasses cities and towns. 

The Oklahoma attorney general recently settled claims with Purdue Pharma for $270 million.

“The magnitude of Oklahoma’s separate settlements recently demonstrated the potential value of each state’s damages, so the states have less incentive now to discount their claims in a global settlement through the MDL,” she wrote.

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