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Krasner sues Pa. AG over settlement agreement with opioid distributors

  • Aaron Moselle/WHYY
Philadelphia City Hall is reflected in the windows of the Office of the District Attorney.

 Emma Lee / WHYY

Philadelphia City Hall is reflected in the windows of the Office of the District Attorney.

(Philadelphia) — Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner wants a state court to effectively guarantee that an ongoing lawsuit against a group of opioid manufacturers and distributors will be permitted to proceed to trial.

The 25-page complaint, filed Thursday in Commonwealth Court, is a direct response to a settlement announced Wednesday by the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office involving Cardinal, McKesson, AmerisourceBergen, and Johnson & Johnson.

Under the agreement, the four companies will pay up to $26 billion to address the opioid crisis ravaging communities across the country, among other stipulations. The settlement, to be paid out over the course of 18 years, also appears to jeopardize all local litigation against the group, potentially barring Krasner’s suit and others in the state from going forward.

Krasner filed a complaint against Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro to ensure that doesn’t happen. He said Thursday the settlement the AG helped broker should not spell the end of the line for a lawsuit that could result in millions for Philadelphia, a city ravaged by opioid addiction.

More than 1,200 people died from a drug overdose in 2020. In the vast majority of cases, fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid, was the culprit.

“When we look at other jurisdictions where these cases have gone to trial, what we see is that those places do better,” said Krasner during a news conference in front of City Hall.

As part of the AG’s settlement, Philadelphia could receive more than $140 million over the life of the agreement, said Krasner. Two counties in Ohio reached settlements totaling more than $325 million on the eve of trial, according to Thursday’s complaint.

A spokeswoman for Shapiro did not immediately respond to a request for comment. In a news release sent out on Wednesday, he applauded the agreement, saying it “puts in place controls that will go a long way to make sure that this never happens again.”

“We expect broad support for this agreement from Attorneys General of both parties. As a group, we know two things to be true: the cost of this epidemic is immense — far more than this deal, and this agreement is the best way to deliver the most help to communities in need, right now,” said Shapiro in a previous statement. “Today’s action sends a message to drug distributors and pharmaceutical companies that we won’t accept this behavior, and that we’re here to always fight for the people we serve.”

Filed in 2018, Krasner’s single-count lawsuit argues that nearly a dozen opioid distributors and manufacturers violated state consumer protection laws by engaging in deceptive marketing practices and sending an overabundance of pills into the city.

Among other remedies, the suit seeks restitution to the city for “the harm it incurred as a result of the defendants’ unfair or deceptive acts,” according to court documents.

District attorneys in at least 10 other Pennsylvania counties have filed similar lawsuits, including Bucks and Chester Counties.

The City of Philadelphia is also suing a group of opioid manufacturers and distributors on similar grounds.

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