Philly DA Criticizes Proposed Settlement with Big Pharma, Files Lawsuit Against PA Attorney General’s Office

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PHILADELPHIA, PA — The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office is criticizing a proposed settlement that was announced by Pennsylvania’s Attorney General and state attorneys general from North Carolina, New York, Delaware, Louisiana, Tennessee, and Connecticut. The DAO also filed a complaint against the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General to stop any potential effort by the AG’s Office to derail other, different lawsuits brought by the Philly DAO against opioid defendants.

The Philly DAO sued in 2018 under the state’s Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law and has litigated against opioid defendants for 2 1/2 years to hold opioid distributors, manufacturers, and dispensers accountable for the devastation they have wrought by poisoning Philadelphians, who die at a rate of 3 per day from fatal overdoses. The settlement at issue would likely provide only $5 — $8 million per year to Philadelphia over an 18 year period, with absolutely no guarantee that Philadelphia would receive these payments over the long term, if at all.

“It’s deeply troubling that the AG’s Office seeks to end our lawsuit when it never even filed one against Cardinal Health, AmerisourceBergen, McKesson, as well as the drug manufacturer Johnson & Johnson. It’s also troubling that the AG’s Office seeks to allow these opioid defendants to escape real accountability,” said DA Krasner. “The proposed settlement announced yesterday is unacceptable: Any money Philadelphia receives from it will be too low in amount, too slow in payment, or a no-show — -it may not even arrive in Philly.

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“We were forced to file suit against the AG’s Office… to make clear that Philadelphia’s people, its rights, its elections and the decisions made by the officials Philadelphia elects matter. This is not the first time state actors have tried to treat Philadelphia as a colony that has no agency to pursue justice and safety on its own. It’s a notion we’ve seen with Republican legislators in Harrisburg, for example, pursue as they have fought tooth and nail to preclude our city’s right to implement commonsense gun safety regulations.

“We simply won’t tolerate this — not from the Republican-controlled legislature or from the PA Attorney General’s Office. Cities and municipalities in other states are taking these companies to court. They are winning, and winning much larger amounts that must be paid quickly and are guaranteed. After trying cases for more than 30 years in Philadelphia, I intend to take this case to trial and let Philadelphia make these opioid defendants pay.”

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The aforementioned distributors, according to Drug Enforcement Agency data reported by the Washington Post in 2019, flooded communities throughout Philadelphia with a combined total of 518,013,833 prescription pills from 2006 to 2014. The effects of the crisis are still being felt today, as fatal overdoses have soared during the pandemic, particularly among Black residents: fatal opioid overdoses skyrocketed 29% last year.

“In my view, it is absolutely imperative that Philadelphia be able to proceed with its own lawsuit, regardless of any outside settlement,” said Elise Schiller, whose daughter, Giana Natali, tragically died of an overdose in 2014. “Philadelphia has been hit extremely hard by the opioid overdose crisis, which not only impacts families and communities, but government and private support systems: medical, therapeutic, prevention, housing, criminal justice, and others. The people of Philadelphia know what is needed to repair some of the harm caused by opioid companies, and should be able to judge the actions of these companies in a Philadelphia court.”

Jurisdictions in other parts of the country have rejected settlements and proceeded to pursue justice against Big Pharma in courts, and have secured enormously more substantial damages from distributors and manufacturers as a result. Oklahoma, for example, won a $465 million verdict against Johnson & Johnson, an amount four times more than what the state’s municipalities would have received through the settlement. In Washington state, Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced Thursday that he formally rejected the proposed settlement with opioid distributors Cardinal Health, AmerisourceBergen, McKesson, and manufacturer Johnson & Johnson, calling the proposed agreement “not nearly good enough for Washington.” And in two Ohio counties, a settlement last year was reached on the eve of trial securing over $325 million dollars. Jurisdictions including California, West Virginia, and New York are currently in court attempting to secure billions of dollars against opioid companies as well.

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Read the full complaint filed late last week here:

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