Tierney Blog

Don't Forget the Law Firms that Represented Big Opioids

State attorneys general are closing in on settling lawsuits against opioid manufacturers, distributors and the Sackler family who obscenely profited from the suffering these drugs inflicted on millions of Americans. Utilizing contingent counsel, the Attorney General of Oklahoma recently settled a case against Purdue Pharma for $270 million, $75 million of which is to come from the Sackler family.

Sadly, as I predicted in my January 2018 Op Ed in Buzz Feed that was based on the tobacco experience, Oklahoma legislators are now looking for ways to divert the money away from public health. While not a surprise, diversion of settlements from health will remain a major fight as other cases are resolved.

On a separate but vitally important development, the AG's of Massachusetts and New York, who are not using contingent counsel, are showing how the Sackler family sought to profit from both non-generic and generic opioids and, astoundingly enough, from the life saving prescriptions that are used to save lives of those who overdose on their products.

While many issues remain unclear, one unaddressed question is what the names of the law firms are who set up the complex corporate structures that led to so many deaths in so many communities. As with tobacco, unmasking the identity of those law firms is essential to justice.

At SCOTUSBlog: June Medical should be summarily reversed

My co-instructor this Spring at Harvard is Jonathan Miller who is also the Chief of the Public Protection Bureau in the Massachusetts Office of Attorney General. Jon just posted on SCOTUSBlog calling for the Supreme Court to summarily reverse June Medical.

Miller argues that state "laws requiring admitting privileges do not enhance patient safety," and that the Court should reaffirm its decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt.

FTC Shuts Down FL-Based Health Insurance Scam

The Federal Trade Commission swept into Florida and got a federal judge to shut down a Florida operation that was selling fraudulent or "worthless" health insurance plans. Tens of thousands of people across the country were victimized, and the operators appear to have been on the radar of at least some AGs.  

Health insurance scams have been proliferating as the federal government dismantles the Affordable Care Act. And Florida is among the nation’s biggest targets when it comes to scammers using robocalls to pitch fake health insurance.

The FTC did this one without the involvement of the FL AG. But looking at the issue nationwide, this is exactly the kind of issue that the FTC and AG consumer divisions should be prosecuting together. Collaborations increase the amount of monetary penalties that can be imposed and allow the agencies to pool their resources. Read about successful collaborations here and here.  

Bipartisan State Efforts to Control Prescription Drug Costs

At the top of the agenda for the 800 state health policymakers who crowded into this year's annual conference of the National Academy for State Health Policy were bipartisan state efforts to control the costs of prescription drugs.  24 states have passed legislation designed to hold back price increases and almost all of them have been challenged by drug companies in lawsuits that will be defended by state attorneys general.

This is an issue that is only going to loom larger for all attorneys general, their legislatures, and their administrative agencies in the months ahead.

Connecticut AG Leads on Pharmaceutical Price-Fixing Case

Led by Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen and his staff, 20 attorneys general sued some of the largest generic drug companies for price fixing. These AG's have uncovered what appears to be egregious wrongdoing that falls on to the bottom line of almost every American family. This case is proof positive that state attorneys general - operating on a bi partisan basis - are essential to defending all of us in the marketplace.

  • See, Pharma in their sights: Attorneys general get real on alleged price-fixing, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Dec. 18, 2016).

NY AG Sues Health Insurer over Coverage

The NY AG has sued a health insurer for denying coverage to insured who have Hepititus C.  His office then settled with seven other insurers on the same issue. The insurers say thatcoverage only kicks in when symptoms become advanced, but the AG (and private suits) say that that thisrestriction does not appear in the text of the coverage documents.  I want to make two points.  The first is that the tension between insurers and insured remains high, and the second is that in some states the AG is able to play a role either in litigation or in how that AG "represents" its client, the Department of Insurance all of whom have created complex regulations designed to keep these questions out of the courts.  For those who follow the world of attorneys general, this is one to watch.