CITY HALL — The city filed suit today against five pharmaceutical firms for deceptive marketing of highly addictive opioids, including OxyContin and Percocet.
According to the Mayor's Press Office, the suit charges that the firms "knowingly and aggressively marketed these drugs as rarely addictive, while touting benefits that lacked scientific support in order to boost profits."
Purdue Pharma, maker of OxyContin, and Endo Health Solutions, maker of Percocet, were named as defendants, along with Cephalon, Janssen Pharmaceuticals and Actavis.
"For years, big pharma has deceived the public about the true risks and benefits of highly potent and highly addictive painkillers in order to expand their customer base and increase their bottom line," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a statement. "This has led to a dramatic rise in drug addiction, overdose and diversion in communities across the nation, and Chicago is not immune to this epidemic.
"Today, we’re saying enough is enough," he added. "It’s time for these companies to end these irresponsible practices and be held accountable for their deceptive actions."
The suit seeks not to ban the drugs, but to "end deceptive marketing so that patients and physicians are able to make informed decisions."
In addition to the general public health, the city's interest in the suit is that its health plan has paid $9.5 million in reimbursements for such painkillers since 2008. The city estimates that emergency-room visits linked to the misuse of painkillers rose 65 percent from 2004 to 2011.
The suit suggests that the elderly and veterans are especially prone to the target marketing of these drugs, and that once addicted users are more likely to turn to heroin, "because it produces the same high but is cheaper and easier to access."
"We believe that these pharmaceutical manufacturers have violated a number of city ordinances and other laws in the marketing and sale of these drugs," said Corporation Counsel Stephen Patton. "The purpose of the lawsuit is simple: to stop this deceptive and unlawful marketing and hold these companies responsible for the harm their deception has caused."
Radio host Rush Limbaugh is among those who've sought treatment for an addiction to OxyContin, which has also been called "hillbilly heroin."
Janssen spokeswoman Robyn Frenze said the company "is committed to ethical business practices and responsible promotion, prescribing and use of all our medications." She added that "we’re currently reviewing the complaint."
Denise Bradley, spokeswomen for Cephalon's corporate owner, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, said, "We do not comment on pending litigation," and the other firms did not respond to requests for comment.
"These companies have misled doctors and consumers over many years, and on behalf of our residents, they need to be held accountable,” said Business Affairs and Consumer Protection Commissioner Maria Guerra Lapacek. "This lawsuit should serve as a wake-up call not just to these pharmaceutical companies, but to every business with Chicago consumers — our City will not tolerate consumer deception."
The suit was filed in Illinois state court.