Two unions in Illinois have filed a lawsuit against a number of pharmaceutical companies alleging their deceptive marketing practices furthered the national opioid crisis, which proved fatal for some union members.
The Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters and the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150 have filed the suit in Cook County on Wednesday. The lawsuit claims companies like Allergan, Teva and others made billions of dollars by misleading doctors into giving union members painkillers without properly addressing the addictive nature of the drugs.
“For decades, Manufacturer Defendants deployed an intricate and highly misleading misinformation campaign that overstated the benefits and downplayed the risks of long-term opioid treatment for chronic pain,” according to the lawsuit. “This marketing scheme – designed, supported, and executed by Manufacturer Defendants – was devised to push increased opioid sales and expand the chronic pain market.”
Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters Executive Secretary-Treasurer Gary Perinar said it was time for the corporations to step up and take responsibility for their role in the opioid crisis.
“Our lawsuit aims to recover the health, dignity and economic welfare of our communities, and to help ensure that nothing like this ever happens again,” he said in a statement.
Local 150 president James Sweeney said his members were prescribed opioids that “have little if any medical benefit and lead to addiction, despair and death, while our welfare funds have been compelled to shoulder the unjustifiable financial burden of related health care and disability payments.”
The suit seeks unspecified damages that, considering the scope of the lawsuit, could be massive. The suit specifically cites local statutes that the companies had broken in order to keep the suit from being consolidated into a federal lawsuit.
Law firm Edelson PC partner Ari Scharg outlined how the Illinois-based union members would be much more at risk of developing opioid addictions.
“There are workers that are in the air, on the ground, operating heavy machinery that get injured,” he said.
Construction occupations have the highest incidence of opioid-related deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
None of the pharmaceutical companies contacted were immediately available for comment.