Opioid trial between San Francisco and Big Pharma begins next week

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By Katy St. Clair

A civil case against entities accused of fueling San Francisco’s opioid epidemic begins Monday before Judge Charles R. Breyer of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

“City and County of San Francisco, et al., v Purdue Pharma LP, et al.” is going after manufacturers, distributors and pharmacies who have engaged in what the city and county allege is an illegal and harmful “flooding” of San Francisco with opioids. Among the defendants are Walgreens, Allergan Pharmaceutical Company, Teva Pharmaceuticals, Anda Inc. and Endo Pharmaceutical Company.

City Attorney David Chiu says that by suing manufacturers, distributors and pharmacies – a full supply chain – this case is the first of its kind to go to trial.

“Walgreens, Allergan, Teva, Anda and Endo (caused) widespread public nuisance and a public emergency,” Chiu said at a press conference Wednesday. “They need to be held accountable.”


Chiu threw out statistics to back up his point: There are about 163 million prescription opiates in San Francisco a year, or 22 pills for every man, woman and child; about 25% of all San Francisco General ER visits are opioid-related, overdoses in the county increased 478% from 2015 to 2020, and in 2020 double the number of people who died from overdoses of opioids died of COVID-19.

Many of the overdose deaths in recent years are due to fentanyl, which is often mixed with illegal drugs. More than twice as many homeless people in San Francisco died in the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic compared to previous years, with the leading cause of death being drug overdose, a study by the UC San Francisco which revealed the effects of fentanyl on the community.

On April 6, the Drug Enforcement Administration sent a letter to federal, state and local law enforcement warning of a national spike in “massive overdose” deaths linked to fentanyl. A massive overdose is characterized by three or more overdoses occurring in a short time at the same place.

Asked about fentanyl’s impact on San Francisco, Chiu said the companies involved in the city’s lawsuit had played a “devastating role in the opiate crisis” by “flooding our market” and creating the addiction that led some people to search for illegal drugs.

The lawsuit alleges unfair business practices, fraud, misrepresentation, deception of the public and violation of the Controlled Substance Act, the California Consumers Legal Remedies Act.

According to Chiu, Endo has already settled with the plaintiffs and agreed to pay San Francisco $10 million to fight the crisis, $5 million to be paid immediately and then another $5 million to be paid over ten years.

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Copyright © 2022 by Bay City News, Inc. Republication, redistribution, or other reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.

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