Attorney Adam Lee announced this afternoon that the City of Portland filed a six count complaint today against twenty-six (26) defendants who manufacture and distribute opiod drugs – the City of Portland vs Purdue Pharmaceuticals Et Al – in Superior Court at 2:00 pm. The complaint is over 260 pages long plus exhibits.
Some of the grounds for the lawsuit against the defendants are Fraud, Unjust Enrichment, Negligence, Negligent Marketing, Public Nuisance and a violation of Maine’s Unfair Trade Practices Act. These factors have placed too much of a burden for the city of Portland. Ninety-five (95) percent of the telephone calls to the Police Department are drug related.
Oliver Bradeen, the liaison for the Law Enforcement Addiction, (“LEAAP”) said his position is a two year old response to the opiod crisis. The need for a better response came after Portland experienced fourteen (14) overdoses, including two (2) fatalities in a 24 hour period two years ago said Bradeen this afternoon in front of Milestone Recovery, 65 India Street. Bradeen said he works to “facilitate care and work towards recovery.” So Far, LEAAP has worked with 195 unduplicated individuals face to face and another 270 via phone support and referrals.
“Our city has been overwhelmed by this epidemic. Family, friends and community members are watching people die,” said Bradeen. In 2017, 51 people lost their lives to opiod overdoses in Portland. The demand for treatment is outpacing availability. Month to month Portland’s overdose numbers continue to trend upwards…our city is absorbing a tremendous cost to respond to overdoses, but there has also been an economic toll that includes lost jobs, crime and homelessness. We are in the midst of a community trauma without an end in sight…while we are doing our best, more needs to be done. By announcing this lawsuit today, we are holding the pharmaceutical companies accountable for their actions,” said Bradeen.
Among other charges, the lawsuit claims that defendants engaged in unfair marketing campaign that begin in the late 1990s, deepend around 2006 and continues to the present, and reversed the popular medical benefits of opiods according to a press release from the city spokeswoman.
Bob Fowler, executive director of Milestone Recovery, the non-profit located at 65 India Street, turns people away every day. They are looking for a bed in which to begin their recovery. Recovery has only 16 beds that are filled most of the time. It costs Recovery $270. a day for a bed that includes medical care. It’s important to assist in the recovery of a drug addict at the moment they ask for help Fowler said. Unfortunately, the city is not equipped to do that.
According to Attorney Lee, of Trafton, Matzen, Belleau & Frenette, LLP, Auburn, the City was slow to file the lawsuit because it “didn’t know the extent of the fraud by the defendants” and that extensive research was required to make that determination. The City Council decided last fall to initiate its own lawsuit against the manufacturers and distributors. The lawsuit is being handled on a contingency fee basis. Lee’s firm is Maine counsel for a New York law firm that has filed similar lawsuits in other states and cities in the country.