Wolf Haldenstein Joins With Health and Welfare Benefit Plans to Combat Opioid Crisis

Wolf Haldenstein is joining with health and welfare benefit plans and their members and beneficiaries to combat the growing prescription opioid drug crisis. On January 12, 2018, Wolf Haldenstein commenced an action against opioid manufactures and distributors on behalf of the Teamsters Local 237 Welfare Fund and the Retirees’ Benefit Fund (the “Complaint”). See the Complaint.

Local 237 Teamsters is the largest local in the Teamsters international union (International Brotherhood of Teamsters) with a membership of over 24,000 employees and 8,000 retirees.

Wolf Haldenstein, a law firm based in New York for more than 130 years, has extensive expertise in complex litigation, with an emphasis on labor, consumer, securities litigation and antitrust. The Firm has recovered over $9 billion on behalf of investors, consumers, workers, and others affected by many kinds of corporate wrongdoing, and we have earned global acclaim for our groundbreaking achievements. The Firm has been working closely with healthcare experts and other law firms to develop a comprehensive strategy to address this enormous problem.

The Complaint seeks to recover the excessive costs incurred by health and welfare benefit funds, including the skyrocketing cost for (largely ineffective) opioid prescriptions, as well as the added cost for treatment and other related health expenses for members and their families that plans have been forced to pay because of the deceptive marketing of prescription opioids.  Those deceptive practices have resulted in addiction to prescription opioids that has reached a crisis level. According to a study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) in 2016, the economic cost to the national economy was $78.5 billion in 2013.[1]  No doubt, that cost is much higher today.  Even worse than the economic cost are the staggering personal and social costs we pay for the prescription opioid drug crisis. “More than 40 Americans die each day from overdoses involving prescription opioids.  Families and communities continue to be devastated by the epidemic of prescription opioid overdoses,” said CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden. “The rising cost of the epidemic is also a tremendous burden for the health care system.”[2]

The CDC Study considered how the opioid epidemic affected the U.S. economy in 2013. The Study found that more than 30% of the annual $78.5 billion costs were due to increased health care and substance abuse treatment costs. Public sector entities across the U.S. shouldered the second highest economic burden that year by incurring 25% of the costs associated with opioid abuse. Such costs were absorbed through Medicaid, Medicare and other public insurance, other government-funded treatment programs and the criminal justice-related system. The CDC Study also noted how quickly the epidemic had grown in both economic and societal costs in the 6 years between 2007 and 2013. In 2007, the opioid epidemic cost the U.S. $55.7 billion. Within 6 years the costs grew by $23 billion, over 40%. Also within the same 6 years, the annual number of persons addicted to prescription opioids increased by over 200,000.[3]  These are staggering adverse economic and health consequences with no end in sight.

Public Sector & Labor Litigation Response

As communities – from major cities to small rural towns – struggle to address the spiraling economic and social costs of the opioid epidemic (including rising prescription costs, drug addiction treatment, homelessness, child welfare concerns, and increased law enforcement burdens), some state and local governments have turned to the courts to seek redress from drug manufacturers and distributors, including physicians. On September 19, 2017, the New York Attorney General and 40 other attorneys general from across the country announced that they issued subpoenas to opioid manufacturers and distributors to uncover the extent to which those companies misled or deceived patients and doctors about the efficacy and addictive power of their drugs. The subpoenas complement the lawsuits filed by various states, including Ohio and Mississippi, against several drug manufacturers seeking redress for their deceptive, and often aggressive, marketing and advertising campaigns.

In addition to the AG investigations and litigation filed by various states, individual municipalities also have filed litigation against drug companies seeking to recover the costs incurred in combatting the epidemic. More recently, some health and welfare benefit funds in the U.S. have filed litigation to seek similar compensation against the drug companies who make prescription opioids including the Teamsters Local 237 Welfare Fund and Retirees’ Benefit Fund.  The Teamsters Local 237 Complaint names the following pharmaceutical distributors and manufacturers as defendants:

Pharmaceutical Manufacturers:

(a) Purdue Pharma L.P., Purdue Pharma, Inc. and The Purdue Frederick Company, Inc.;

(b) Mallinckrodt PLC and Mallinckrodt LLC;

(c) Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc., and Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc.;

(d) Teva Pharmaceuticals Industries, Ltd., Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc., Cephalon, Inc., Watson Laboratories, Inc., Actavis LLC

and Actavis Pharma, Inc..;

(e) Endo Health Solutions Inc. and Endo Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; and

(f) Allergan PLC f/k/a Actavis PLS.

Pharmaceutical Distributors:

(a) McKesson Corporation;

(b) Amerisource Bergen Drug Company;

(c) Cardinal Health, Inc., and Cardinal Health subsidiary The Harvard Drug Group, L.L.C.;

If your Fund is interested in joining this matter, please contact Wolf Haldenstein as provided below. Your Fund’s participation in this effort can help us turn the tide against this terrible epidemic. If you want to join that effort, Wolf Haldenstein will represent you on a fully contingent fee basis. We will receive a fee and reimbursement of our expenses only if we are successful on your behalf, either at trial or by an out-of-court settlement.

Contact Wolf Haldenstein

Health & welfare benefit funds and other entities interested in speaking to Wolf Haldenstein to learn more about the opioid litigation and/or potential representation please call or email Mark C. Rifkin or Regina M. Calcaterra at (212) 545-4600 or Rikfin@whafh.com or Calcaterra@whafh.com.

Media & Publications

Governor Wolf Declares Heroin and Opioid Epidemic a Statewide Disaster Emergency, Press Release, Pennsylvania Governor, January 2018

Opioid Abuse in the U.S is so bad it’s lowering Life Expectance. Why Hasn’t the Epidemic Hit Other Countries? Washington Post, December 28, 2017

The Family that Built An Empire of Pain, The New Yorker, October 30, 2017

The Opioid Epidemic: A Crisis Years in the Making, The New York Times, October 26, 2017

The Drug Industry’s Triumph Over the DEA, The Washington Post, October 15, 2017

Prescription Opioid Abuse and Heroin Addiction in New York State, Office of the New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli, June 2016

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[1] “The Economic Burden of Prescription Opioid Overdose, Abuse, and Dependence in the United States, 2013,” LLW Journals, Medical Care, vol. 54, no. 10, October 2016.

[2] “Opioid Epidemic Costs U.S. $78.5 Billion Annually: CDC,” HealthDay News, September 21, 2016.
[3]  Id.