Cobb joins national opioid suit against pharmacies, drug makers

FILE: Missy Owen founded the Marietta-based Davis Direction Foundation after losing her son to opioid overdose.
FILE: Missy Owen founded the Marietta-based Davis Direction Foundation after losing her son to opioid overdose.

Kroger, CVS, Allergan and Walgreens are among the household brands named in the complaint

Cobb has joined hundreds of other counties nationwide in filing legal action against pharmaceutical companies and pharmacies over their alleged role in fueling the opioid epidemic.

Cobb has seen a massive spike in overdose deaths over the past three years, far above that of any other county in the Atlanta region.

The lawsuit names more than 30 defendants, including household name brands like Kroger, Walmart, CVS, Johnson & Johnson, Perdue, Walgreens, Allergan and RiteAid.

The county, like others, is seeking damages to offset the financial impact of the epidemic to its police, first responders, public health programs, courts and other services.

And it's not just local governments that have suffered. The epidemic has drained savings, wrecked retirement plans, pushed some homeowners into foreclosure and kept workers from earning a steady paycheck, a report by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution found.

The complaint alleges the companies engaged in “a massive false marketing campaign to drastically expand the market for such drugs” and reaped “enormous financial rewards by refusing to monitor and restrict the improper distribution of those drugs.”

The case was filed in the Northern District of Georgia earlier this month and is expected to be transferred and merged with a multidistrict litigation in the Northern District of Ohio.

Due to the nature of multidistrict litigation, the complaint follows a strict template similar to other jurisdictions with few details specific to Cobb.

“Although Plaintiff does not presently know the names of the Marketing Defendants’ sales representatives active in Cobb County, through discovery this information will become available,” it reads. “Sales representatives’ call notes, for example, will identify the strategies Marketing Defendants deployed specifically within Cobb County and some of the specific misrepresentations they made.”

Commissioner Bob Ott said the county was recruited to join the lawsuit, and said any damages it might win would be put toward programs to confront the epidemic.