Pharma companies state their case

Recorder Staff
Wednesday, December 20, 2017

GREENFIELD — Following the announcement of Greenfield’s lawsuit against opioid distributors and manufacturers last week, several of the pharmaceutical companies named in the suit have responded in defense of their actions.

“We aren’t willing to be scapegoats,” said John Parker, spokesman for Healthcare Distribution Alliance, a national trade alliance representing Mckesson, Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen. All three pharmaceutical companies are listed as defendants along with 21 other companies.

The lawsuit, filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Springfield, requests financial reparations for the ongoing addiction epidemic. Its end-goal, according to District Attorney David Sullivan, is to hold opioid production and distribution businesses accountable for their role in creating the crisis — a role pharmaceutical companies say has been unfairly ascribed to them.

“The idea that distributors are solely responsible for the number of opioid prescriptions written defies common sense and lacks understanding of how the pharmaceutical supply chain actually works and how it’s regulated,” Parker said, noting that distributors don’t make, market, prescribe, or dispense opioids to consumers.

A crux of all pharmaceutical companies’ arguments sent to The Recorder following Thursday’s news is that medical opioids have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Opioid production businesses operate legally, and with federal oversight.

“We believe the allegations in the lawsuits against our company are both legally and factually unfounded. Janssen has acted in the best interests of patients and physicians with regard to its opioid pain medicines, which are FDA-approved and carry FDA-mandated warnings about possible risks on every product label,” said Jessica Castles Smith, spokeswoman for Johnson and Johnson’s unit Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc., which is also named as a defendant in the case.

Greenfield’s lawsuit harks to the Controlled Substances Act, legislation signed in 1970 by President Richard Nixon regulate drug production and distribution. The goal of that act was to have manufacturers “halt suspicious orders and control against the diversion of these dangerous drugs to illegitimate uses,” according to Sweeney Merrigan Law, which put together the lawsuit with Mayor William Martin.

While arguing their position, pharmaceutical companies acknowledged the addiction crisis and voiced support in finding a solution.

“Responsibly used opioid-based pain medicines give doctors and patients important choices to help manage the debilitating effects of chronic pain. At the same time, we recognize opioid abuse and addiction is a serious public health issue that must be addressed,” Smith said. “Addressing opioid abuse will require collaboration among many stakeholders and we will continue to work with federal, state and local officials to support solutions.”