Chicago sues J&J, Purdue, Endo, Actavis, Teva over opioid marketing

In the wake of a lawsuit brought by two California counties against five manufacturers of prescription painkillers, the city of Chicago has filed a suit of its own. Chicago is suing the same five companies--Actavis ($ACT), Endo ($ENDP), Johnson & Johnson's ($JNJ) Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Purdue Pharma, and Teva ($TEVA)--alleging, much like California does, that they overstated the benefits of opioid painkillers while deceiving the public about the risks. Chicago filed its suit yesterday, according to Bloomberg.

The Chicago complaint alleges that the five companies engaged in civil conspiracy and fraud in an effort to alter public perceptions about narcotic painkillers, Bloomberg reports. The city is seeking a damages award of an unspecified amount. "Since 2007, the city has paid for nearly 400,000 claims for opioid prescription fills, costing nearly $9,500,000, and suffered additional damages for the costs of providing and using opiates long-term to treat chronic non-cancer pain," states the complaint, which was obtained by Bloomberg.

In May, the California counties of Orange and Santa Clara accused the companies of violating that state's false advertising laws, as well as engaging in unfair business practices and creating a public nuisance by reaping profits while turning so many of its citizens into drug addicts. That suit also seeks monetary damages.

The Chicago suit marks the third attempt this year by local legislators to overrule federal authority over prescription drugs. In March, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick banned the newly FDA-approved hydrocodone pill Zohydro, prompting its maker, Zogenix ($ZGNX) to sue. A federal judge struck down the ban in April.

The FDA continues to defend its approvals of narcotic painkillers, even with the concerns about addiction and the lawsuits on the rise. FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, who has been pressured by federal and state legislators and consumer advocacy groups to withdraw Zohydro's approval, said in March that the drug fills an important niche in pain control when used appropriately.

As for the five companies being sued in Illinois and California, at least one is trying to answer the call for new technologies that will prevent addicts from abusing prescription narcotics. Purdue Pharma completed a late-stage trial of its extended-release--and abuse-deterrent--formulation of hydrocodone bitartrate earlier this year and filed for FDA approval on April 30. Observers say that, if Purdue is successful, the FDA could force Zogenix to pull Zohydro, which doesn't include tamper-resistant features.

- here's the Bloomberg story