Boston sues drug makers, distributors and one doctor in $64-million opioid case

Mayor Walsh today announced the city has sued 13 drug companies, four drug distributors - and a pain doctor now serving an eight-year federal prison sentence for handing out opioid prescriptions like Halloween candy - for the $64 million the city alleges their negligence with opioids has cost and will continue to cost Boston.

In a complaint filed in Suffolk Superior Court, Boston alleges the city has been forced to clean up the public-health mess the companies made by selling and distributing drugs they knew would create a market of addicted users. Among the manufacturers are the makers of OxyContin and Percocet and their generic equivalents.

In a statement, Walsh said that virtually every city department has seen expenses grow because of the opioid epidemic, even Parks and Recreation, which has to clean up the needles addicts leave behind or ban children from restrooms known for addict use:

It's time to hold accountable the companies that created and fostered this crisis and pursue remedies to stop its harmful marketing tactics.

The suit says the Boston Fire Department has had to spend $2 million between 2014 and 2018 on Narcan expenses - not just for the life-saving drug itself but on special gloves and masks it requires. The suit says firefighters administered 1,182 does of Narcan last year - triple the amount just three years earlier - and that the city is seeing a growing number of firefighters seeking to quit after burning out treating so many people. Meanwhile, EMS has seen narcotics-related calls jump from 1,381 in 2012 to 2,336 just in the first eight months of this year.

In addition to companies, the suit names Fathalla Mashali, a Dover doctor who ran New England Wellness & Pain Management in Peabody and who pleaded guilty last year to charges that included doling out OxyContin prescriptions to people who never underwent the exams he then billed the government for. At one point, he was writing more OxyContin prescriptions than any hospital in the state.

A federal judge sentenced him to eight years in prison and ordered him to pay $8.7 million in restitution.

In its suit, the city says its own health plan paid Mashali for OxyContin he prescribed to employees between January, 2012 and August, 2013.

Three companies that supplied drugs to Mashali are among the distributors sued by Boston.

Entire city complaint (5.7M PDF).


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Damages poorly documented

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It's more story than hard, itemized costs. I suppose that may come if a guilty finding.

That's often the case with an

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That's often the case with an initial filing, especially in a civil case. One of the first steps in a lawsuit is the discovery process, where each side will ask the court to compel the other side to produce the evidence (documents, records, etc.) that at this point they only suspect exists.

Well it should be easy

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Well it should be easy settlement money for Mahhty since Big Pharma laughs at these routine, drop-in-the-bucket suits. Take the money and build a state of the art 24 hour shelter with lockers for people's belongings and programs to help them achieve long term sobriety and social productivity and housing. Please. Let's do that and set an example for other cities in the country who are struggling with the same crisis. Let us try something maverick and revolutionary other than what we are doing now (which as we read about) hasn't helped.


Agreed. An example of that

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Agreed. An example of that is how South Bay jail is right smack in the middle of it. How do they expect inmates getting out of prison to get any better when that's the first thing they see when they get released?

No it won't

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If big pharma rolls over, then the win will be a precedent for the next thousand suits or huge class-action suit.

There are some sticking points. It's claimed that the companies made their drugs so available that many people started taking them. But not so available that they switched to heroin/fentanyl.

Then there is the leap to all the deaths and needle detritus from people NOT using their drug, but illegal street drugs. Harder to prove people got hooked on their product and had to switch.

Sorry, but no.

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The complaint is largely about the result of policy choices. I'd like to see the found needles tracked to their source, which is probably a needle exchange. Don't like dealing with NARCAN? Then don't deal with NARCAN.

No local law firm?

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The city couldn't find a Boston law firm to handle this? Geez, that's a $100K complaint... I'm available!!

Here's a few ideas

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Build a large homeless and addiction recovery in, say, Dover? They can be easily bused in. Perhaps the shifty, sleazy doctor's house could seized, and used as a facility. Maybe the guy who runs (or at least did) the Boston Rescue Mission in DTX will let his Marblehead home be used? He'll still get his excellent 6 figure salary, and bennies, like having his kid's private school tuition paid. Sweet contract.