By Matthew Grady 09/14/2018
Boston Mayor Martin Walsh said the city filed a lawsuit Thursday against opioid manufacturers, distributors, and a doctor in the latest attempt to legally punish them for the city’s opioid crisis. The lawsuit claims that haphazard distribution and misleading marketing of opioids by the defendants led to the deaths of 723 Boston residents from 2013 to 2017. The city seeks to be reimbursed for the $64 million it has spent since 2014 to prevent opioid abuse in Boston in addition to payment for future rehabilitation efforts. Walsh said at a news conference that pharmaceutical companies “have put profits ahead of people…knowingly fueling addiction at the expense of human lives.” According to the lawsuit, Purdue Pharmaceuticals, the maker of OxyContin, misrepresented the risks of various opioids and prescribed them for chronic pains such as arthritis, chronic headaches, and lower back pain. Other drug companies followed suit and promoted the pain-killing qualities of the drugs in advertisements. Distributors failed to look into the huge numbers of orders they were processing.
The lawsuit pointed out that between 2010 and 2016, Boston doctors were prescribing painkillers at double the state average and almost triple the national average. Doctor Fathalla Mashali is named in the lawsuit for operating three pain clinics in the Boston area, so-called “pill mills.” There, over 1000 of prescriptions for oxycodone were written every month, an amount larger than that prescribed by some of the biggest hospitals in Massachusetts. City Councilor Frank Baker strongly supports Walsh’s new legal action. “Despite our best efforts to combat this crisis, it continues to get worse,” he said.
This suit is one among many filed by local governments against opioid manufacturers and distributors to hold them accountable for what public officials see as their contribution to opioid addiction, overdoses, and deaths.