Darien eyes joining class action drug suit
Updated 10:10 am, Wednesday, September 6, 2017
DARIEN — Town leaders remain undecided as to whether they will join a lawsuit aimed at makers of pain killers “aggressively and misleadingly marketed” said to have contributed to the opioid epidemic.
“I would like to know how our residents feel about the possibility of joining this suit,” First Selectman Jayme Stevenson said the day after an Aug. 31 meeting between town officials throughout the state and the lawyers bringing forth the litigation. The meeting was held in Waterbury where the class action suit got its start.
According to Stevenson, the claim — being carried out by Drubner, Hartley & Hellman, LLC and Simmons, Hanly, Conroy LLC — is being crafted after a 2016 suit already pending in Suffolk County, N.Y.
“The hopeful outcome of the suit is not only a financial settlement to help reimburse municipalities for the extraordinary costs incurred fighting the opioid addiction epidemic,” Stevenson explained, “but also to have the defendants accountable to help with opioid education, treatment programs, prescriber education and any other outcomes the municipalities collectively deem necessary and appropriate.”
Connecticut saw 917 overdose deaths in 2016, and more than 1,000 are anticipated in 2017. According to Darien Director of Health David Knauf, the state medical examiner reported two overdose deaths in Darien in 2016.
Stevenson said she needed more time to consider the suit and planned to present the details to the Board of Selectmen at its Sept. 11 meeting.
New Milford, Bridgeport, Oxford, Bristol, Naugatuck, Wolcott and Rockbury have verbally committed to join Waterbury’s lawsuit against Stamford-based Purdue Pharma and other drug makers over the opioid overdose crisis. As many as 20 other cities and towns — including Danbury and Ridgefield - are considering taking similar action.
“Waterbury is the first Connecticut city to join the growing list of municipalities around the country that have concluded that the defendant drug companies must be held responsible for their conspiratory and fraudulent actions and the injuries and costs that have resulted from the opioid epidemic,” said Paul Hanly, a lead attorney who filed the lawsuit. “The defendants have manufactured, promoted and marketed opioids by omitting critical information that has long been known about the drugs’ addictive qualities and other risks associated with their prolonged use.”
Leaders from two dozen cities and towns assembled in Waterbury on Thursday in a show of solidarity. The leaders said drug companies should be held responsible for a crisis that is expected to result in 1,000 overdose deaths in Connecticut this year.
“Communities throughout Connecticut have been suffering the devastating effects of this opioid epidemic for years and we in Waterbury believe it is time to take a stand,” Waterbury Mayor Neil O’Leary said in a prepared statement. “The effects stretch throughout the state and have destroyed families, flooded emergency rooms and overwhelmed emergency services. We are pleased that so many of the leaders of our neighboring cities and towns came today to hear about our course of action and we expect many will be joining us in this litigation.”
A spokesman for Purdue, which manufactures the popular opioid painkiller OxyContin, said the company has been working to minimize the drug’s addictive effects.
“While we vigorously deny the allegations, we share local officials’ concerns about the opioid crisis and we are committed to working collaboratively to find solutions,” said spokesman Robert Josephson on Aug. 31.