Suburban health insurance providers sue opioid manufacturers, prescribers

  • OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma is among companies being sued by two suburban nonprofits that provide health insurance to employees of hundreds of local governments.

    OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma is among companies being sued by two suburban nonprofits that provide health insurance to employees of hundreds of local governments. Associated Press

  • Two local nonprofit risk pools that provide more than 203 local municipalities and other public entities with workers' compensation and employee health care insurance, filed a joint lawsuit against leading opioid manufacturers, distributors, professional associations and prescribers.

    Two local nonprofit risk pools that provide more than 203 local municipalities and other public entities with workers' compensation and employee health care insurance, filed a joint lawsuit against leading opioid manufacturers, distributors, professional associations and prescribers.

 
 
Updated 10/16/2018 7:03 PM

Two suburban-based nonprofit risk pools that provide more than 203 local municipalities with employee health-care insurance filed a joint lawsuit against leading opioid manufacturers, distributors, professional associations and prescribers.

Filed in the Circuit Court of Cook County, it is the first opioid lawsuit brought by insurance risk pools in Illinois.

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The Intergovernmental Risk Management Agency (IRMA) and Intergovernmental Personnel Benefit Cooperative (IPBC), represented by Chicago-based law firm Edelson PC, seek an injunction and compensation to recoup costs resulting from the over-prescription and abuse of opioid medication.

"As a taxpayer-supported health insurance provider to public entities across Illinois, we have a fiduciary obligation to aggressively seek to recoup the millions of dollars in claim costs that have been wasted due to over-prescription of opioid medications and addiction treatment," said IPBC Executive Director Dave Cook. "The impact of long-term opioid use and abuse has been significant to our organization financially, and to many of our members who have suffered as a result of defendants' egregious behavior."

Officials from IPBC, based Oak Brook, said its costs include expenditures on hospitalizations from overdoses, addiction treatment and overdose reversal medications. IRMA said it has paid millions of dollars in cases involving injured workers who were unnecessarily given long-term opioid prescriptions to treat chronic pain.

The suit alleges opioid manufacturers, including Purdue Pharma, Allergan and Teva, engaged in aggressive and deceptive marketing campaigns; distributors including AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson failed to act as gatekeepers against overprescribing the addictive narcotics; professional organizations including Chicago-based American Academy of Pain Medicine and American Pain Society deceptively promoted the use of opioids for chronic pain management; and former suburban doctors Paul Madison and Joseph Giacchino served as "pill mills," doling out opioids at their clinic. Madison and Giacchino worked at the now-closed Melrose Park Clinic and the Riverside Management clinic at different points between 2010 and 2017, when state regulators shut the clinics down.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The suit alleges the defendants' plan to flood the Illinois market with opioid medication worked: in 2015, 8 million opioid prescriptions were filled in Illinois, the equivalent of 60 prescriptions per 100 people.

The lawsuit is the latest step by IPBC and IRMA, based in Westchester, to address and reduce opioid abuse.

"This lawsuit is about real costs incurred directly as a result of the opioid epidemic. We have seen fully employed, respectable public employees with work injuries who were prescribed opioids unnecessarily and became addicted, ultimately rendering them unable to return to work and costing our members millions," said IRMA Executive Director Margo Ely. "Opioid abuse and addiction has cost our members through not only lost productivity, but very sad stories of lost careers and lives."

• The Business Wire contributed to this report.

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