Chicago construction unions sue pharmeceutical companies to recover costs for members’ opioid suffering

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The Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters (CRCC) and the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150 (Local 150) have filed a lawsuit against several opioid manufacturers, distributors and prescribers

The joint lawsuit filed in the Circuit Court of Cook County.seeks damages for defendants’ “unconscionable efforts to maximize profits at the expense of union members’ lives, families and communities.” It is the first opioid lawsuit brought by Illinois unions.

Chicago-based law firm Edelson PC is representing the unions in the suit, along with their associated welfare funds the CRCC Welfare Fund and the Midwest Operating Engineers Health and Welfare Fund.

“For years now, unscrupulous drug companies have deliberately chosen to pad their pockets at the expense of our members’ health and well-being. The time has come for them to finally step up and take responsibility for the immense harm they have caused,” CRCC executive secretary-treasurer Gary Perinar said in a statement. “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.”

The lawsuit seeks injunctive relief and financial compensation to recover the unions’ substantial costs relating to the opioid epidemic, which has disproportionately affected their membership of more than 30,000 carpenters and 23,000 engineers throughout Illinois, Northern Indiana and Eastern Iowa and has led to the loss of union members at an alarming rate.

Construction industry workers have a higher incidence of opioid-related overdose deaths than any other occupation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Unions have long been leaders of community development and social justice, so it is fitting that we are leading the charge to address the consequences of this devastating epidemic among our members and working Americans,” said Local 150 president-business manager James M. Sweeney. “Workers experiencing pain-related injuries have been overprescribed 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 unions allege that opioid manufacturers, including Purdue Pharma, Allergan and Teva, carried out a targeted misinformation campaign to promote opioid use; professional organizations, including Chicago-based American Academy of Pain Medicine and American Pain Society, unethically backed this deceptive campaign; distributors, including AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson, failed in their duty to monitor the market as opioid orders reached excessive and dangerous levels; and doctors Paul Madison and Joseph Giacchino indiscriminately wrote thousands of opioid prescriptions for patients at their clinic in suburban Chicago.

The lawsuit names defendants as Purdue Pharma L.P., Purdue Pharma, Inc., Purdue Frederick Company, Inc., Rhodes Pharmaceuticals, Cephalon, Inc., Teva Pharmaceutical industries Ltd., Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc., Endo International PLC, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Johnson & Johnson, Inc., Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc, Janssen Pharmaceutica, Inc., Noramco, Inc., Endo Health Solutions, Inc., Endo Pharmaceuticals, Inc. Allergan PLC, Actavis PLC, Watsn Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Watson Laboratories, Inc., Actavis Pharma, Inc., Actavis LLC, Mallinckrodt PLC, Mallincrodt LLC, American Academy of Pain Medicine, American Geriatric Society, American Pain Society, Amerisourcebergen Corporation, Cardinal Health, Inc., McKesson Corporation, Paul Madison and Joseph Giacchino

A copy of the 209-page complaint can be viewed here.

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