BULLHEAD CITY — Bullhead City officials have filed a lawsuit against opioid manufacturers and distributors, seeking damages for “societal and financial harm,” according to a news release distributed by the city on Tuesday afternoon.
Companies named in the suit include Johnson & Johnson and Purdue Pharma — including members of the Sackler family as owners of Purdue — as well as Allergan PLC, Janssen Pharmaceuticals and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd.
“Bullhead City hasn’t been sitting by idly,” as stated in the city’s lengthy statement. “Yet, the financial toll of the epidemic runs deep and it will take many years and tremendous financial resources to fully abate the effect wrought upon our community by the defendants.”
The suit has been filed in Mohave County Superior Court, which would allow for the case to be presented to an Arizona judge and jury with the goal of focusing on lack of adherence to state laws by the defendants and how the opioid crisis has affected Bullhead City.
Allegations made by the city about companies named include:
- Downplaying “dangerous and deadly potential effects of the misuse of prescription opioids” to increase profits.
- Scheming by manufacturers to increase the number of prescriptions written across Arizona and, specifically, Bullhead City. It describes the city as a place with “a multitude of economically and medically vulnerable populations that defendants knew were predisposed to opioid addiction, including the elderly.”
- Increasing the number of opioid prescriptions for people in the city by “concealing the truth about the risk of addiction and death associated with long-term use of their products” and “pressuring their respective sales forces to deceive local physicians and other prescribers to flood Arizona — and Bullhead City — with far more opioid prescriptions than were medically necessary.”
- Shipping by distributors of prescription opioids across the country — including addresses in Bullhead City — while ignoring requirements in Arizona law that they report large orders that were shipped into the city and other locations across the state. The actions were “willful, motivated by their desire to maximize profits and were committed without consideration of the cost to Bullhead City or its citizens.”
Between 2006 and 2016, Mohave County dispensed more opioid prescriptions than any other Arizona county and “this includes more than those dispensed in the highly populated areas of Maricopa and Pima” counties, according to the city’s statement.
The statement also noted that in one year alone during that decade, four doctors in the county combined to prescribe more than 6 million opioid pills.
The Bullhead City Council approved moving forward with legal action in December. City government won’t be paying legal costs but would share any proceeds that result from cases its side wins.
Representing Bullhead City will be Theodora Oringher PC, which is based in Costa Mesa, California, and Andrews & Thornton, headquartered in Newport Beach, California.
The release also highlighted various efforts to help residents addicted to opioids, such as training Bullhead City Police to administer Narcan, a medication that reverses overdoses of opioids.
There was an opioid symposium last year hosted by Mohave Community College and Arizona State University-Lake Havasu City held to inform residents about the drugs, the widespread effects of misuse and various area resources for prevention, treatment and recovery.