SPRINGFIELD, Mass.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The national law firm of Baron & Budd, and Sweeney Merrigan Law, LLP, announce today that municipal leaders from throughout Western Massachusetts are taking a long-needed step forward to hold accountable the companies responsible for dumping millions of dollars’ worth of prescription opiates into their cities and towns. Leaders from 14 cities and towns announced that they are filing lawsuits against the pharmaceutical drug manufacturers and wholesale drug distributors, alleging that they made the opioid epidemic possible.
The 14 Western Massachusetts cities and towns that have filed suit against many of the largest manufacturers of prescription opioids and their related companies and against the country’s three largest wholesale drug distributors include: Agawam, Belchertown, Clarksburg, Easthampton, Greenfield, Holyoke, Leverett, Ludlow, North Adams, Northampton, Palmer, Pittsfield, South Hadley and West Springfield.
The suits allege that the manufacturing companies pushed highly addictive, dangerous opioids, falsely representing to doctors that patients would only rarely succumb to drug addiction. The suits also allege that the distributors breached their legal duties to monitor, detect, investigate, refuse and report suspicious orders of prescription opioids. The 14 cities and towns are working with a consortium of national law firms and local law firms known as the Massachusetts Opioid Litigation Attorneys (MOLA), which includes the Massachusetts law firms of Sweeney Merrigan Law, LLP, Rodman, Rodman & Sandman and KP Law.
“Time and again, we have found that these corporations knowingly dumped millions and millions of dangerous prescription pills into cities and towns throughout the region,” said Tucker Merrigan of Sweeney Merrigan Law. “I grew up in Western Massachusetts and have seen first-hand how the opioid crisis has deeply hurt the communities I know and love. Taxpayers throughout the region have been shouldering the cost of the opioid epidemic for far too long – and we intend to put a stop to it.”
Because prescription opioids are a highly addictive substance, in 1970 Congress designed a system to control the volume of opioid pills being distributed in this country. It allowed only a select number of wholesalers gain the right to deliver opioids. In exchange, those companies agreed to do a very important job – halt suspicious orders and control against the diversion of these dangerous drugs to illegitimate uses. But in recent years they failed to do that, and today Western Massachusetts is paying the price.
“I am determined to do everything in my power to stop this epidemic from further destroying families and taking the lives of the citizens of our region,” said William Reichelt, Mayor of West Springfield. “Restoring our communities will require significant time, effort and funding. We must hold these corporations accountable for the damage they’ve created so that we can get our communities back on track.”
The people of Western Massachusetts continue to bear the burden of the cost of the epidemic, as the costs of treatment for addiction, education and law enforcement have continued to rise. According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, the number of opioid-related deaths throughout the state has risen dramatically in recent years. From 2000 to 2015 alone, Massachusetts saw a 372 percent increase in overdose fatalities. In 2015, there were 1,724 Massachusetts overdose deaths, up from 463 Massachusetts overdose deaths in 2000. In 2012, the state logged 742 opioid related deaths and by 2016, the number of deaths caused by opioids rose to 1,933.
In addition to MOLA, the legal consortium hired to represent the 14 Western Massachusetts cities and towns includes several national law firms, which bring experience in holding the powerful pharmaceutical industry accountable. Those firms include: Baron & Budd; Levin, Papantonio, Thomas, Mitchell, Rafferty & Proctor; Greene Ketchum Bailey Farrell & Tweel; Hill, Peterson, Carper, Bee & Deitzler; McHugh Fuller Law Group; and Powell & Mejestro.