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Boise man says opioid makers are to blame for his insurance costs. So he’s suing.

These Idahoans’ goals: Reduce opioid overdoses by 50 percent

Treasure Valley health care providers, law enforcement, prosecutors and other public agencies talk about collaborating to tackle the growing opioid crisis in July 2018.
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Treasure Valley health care providers, law enforcement, prosecutors and other public agencies talk about collaborating to tackle the growing opioid crisis in July 2018.

An Idaho man is suing opioid manufacturers, saying pharmaceutical companies including Purdue and Johnson & Johnson are partly to blame for the rising premiums on his Blue Cross of Idaho health insurance plan.

It’s the second lawsuit filed in Idaho federal court this month against opioid drugmakers, stemming from the national opioid crisis. Eleven Idaho counties sued Aug. 17, accusing pharmaceutical makers and sellers of enabling the opioid epidemic.

Eli Medina, a Boise resident, is seeking class-action status for his lawsuit filed Tuesday against Purdue Pharma, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, Cephalon, Johnson & Johnson, Janssen, McKesson and other major drug companies.

“Opioid abuse and addiction are serious public health issues,” Janssen Pharmaceuticals said in a statement. “We are committed to being part of the ongoing dialogue and to doing our part to find ways to address this crisis.

“Our actions in the marketing and promotion of these medicines were appropriate and responsible. The labels for our prescription opioid pain medicines provide information about their risks and benefits, and the allegations made against our company are baseless and unsubstantiated. In fact, our medications have some of the lowest rates of abuse among this class of medications.”

Medina alleges violations of the Idaho Consumer Protection Act, the RICO Act and accuses the companies of public nuisance, negligence and unjust enrichment.

“In addition to the societal impact of deaths, overdoses, and rampant addiction, [the companies’] conduct has created higher demand and thus higher prices for opioids, as well as the need for expensive medical treatment for a number of covered health conditions, resulting in increased insurance costs for Idaho residents,” the lawsuit says. “The direct and proximate consequence of [their] misconduct is that every Idaho purchaser of private health insurance paid higher premiums, co-payments and deductibles. Insurance companies have considerable market power and pass onto their insureds the expected cost of future care — including opioid-related coverage.”

The lawsuit does not say how much of the rising health insurance premiums paid by Idahoans are attributable to opioid prescriptions. That’s something that will be revealed as the lawsuit progresses, Medina’s attorney told the Statesman.

The attorney, Steven Wieland of Boise’s Mooney Wieland Smith & Rose PLLC, said the lawsuit is one of several filed simultaneously Tuesday around the country. They follow similar lawsuits filed earlier this year in California, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York.

Audrey Dutton is an investigative reporter for the Statesman. Contact her at 208-377-6448, adutton@idahostatesman.com or on Twitter at @audreydutton.

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