PROVIDENCE — Attorney General Peter F. Neronha announced Friday that the state’s lawsuit against opioid manufacturers cleared an important hurdle and will continue to move toward trial after a favorable ruling from the Rhode Island Superior Court. Presiding Justice Alice B. Gibney issued the decision, which denied the opioid manufacturers’ attempt to have the lawsuit dismissed.
The state is pursuing litigation against the nation’s top opioid manufacturers and distributors for their role in creating a public health crisis by marketing, producing, promoting and distributing opioids.
“The opioid epidemic has had a devastating effect on people in Rhode Island and across the country,” Neronha said. “We are grateful for the judge’s decision today in this important case. The people of Rhode Island deserve their day in court and we intend to move this case forward as expeditiously as possible.”
The court found that the state’s complaint had an adequate legal and factual basis to move forward. The judge identified the opioid crisis as an epidemic and ruled that the state correctly identified the opioid crisis as a public nuisance by interfering with a right common to the public. Furthermore, the court found that the state had properly alleged that the defendants were in control of the supply of prescription opioids, and that their conduct caused the public nuisance by interfering with a right common to the public.
The Office of the Attorney General filed a civil lawsuit against Purdue Pharma LP; Purdue Pharma Inc.; The Purdue Frederick Company Inc.; Rhodes Pharmaceuticals; Teva Pharmaceuticals USA Inc.; Cephalon Inc.; Mallinckrodt PLC; Mallinckrodt LLC; Specgx LLC.; McKesson Corporation d/b/a McKesson Drug Company; Cardinal Health Inc.; the AmerisourceBergen Drug Company; and Richard Sackler, a member of the Sackler family, which owns Purdue Pharma, maker of OxyContin.
The lawsuit alleges that the manufacturers and distributors knowingly misrepresented the risk posed by prescription opioids in order expand their use and drive up profits. It is also alleged that, in particular, opioid distributors disregarded obligations to identify suspicious orders and customers, allowing for and failing to stop the diversion of opioids within and to Rhode Island.
The parties are currently in the discovery phase of litigation process. Similar suits have been filed across the country, and some have been settled out of court.