Opioid Pill Mill Bust Spreads to Big Pharma
BROOKLYN, N.Y. (CN) — Weeks after a former New York politician’s indictment in an opioid bust code-named “Operation Avalanche,” a wave of related civil litigation has now hit the pharmaceutical industry.
Alvin Floyd, who counts himself among the millions of U.S. citizens addicted to opioids, sued ex-New York State Assemblyman Alec Brook-Krasny, six medical personnel and four drug companies and clinics in Kings County Supreme Court on Friday.
After his time in office, Brook-Krasny became the chief financial officer of Quality Healthcare Management, a co-defendant in Floyd’s case.
Floyd’s lawsuit turns up the heat on a cast of characters similar to those named in two Medicare and Medicaid fraud indictments — containing a whopping 477 charges against 13 people and corporations — revealed on April 7.
Both cases name physician Lazar Feygin as the lead defendant in a scheme involving three pill mills disguised as medical clinics in Brooklyn.
Unlike the criminal case, however, Floyd’s lawsuit names oxycodone manufacturer Actavis Pharma and New York-based pharmacy Duane Reade as defendants.
“We think that this litigation is going to get more common,” Floyd’s attorney Joseph Ciaccio said in a phone interview. Floyd had retained his firm Napoli Shkolnik before the similar prosecution was made public.
“The conspiring defendants have ruined countless lives, including the life of the plaintiff herein, Alvin Floyd,” Floyd’s 46-page complaint states. “While the conspiring defendants continued to make millions of dollars in profits to fund lavish lifestyles, patients such as the plaintiff herein suffer daily from addiction.”
At the time of the indictments, Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget Brennan said in a statement that the “fusion of pill mill and Medicaid mill harmed countless people throughout the region.”
“Prescriptions for oxycodone were treated as a commodity and patients were a means to an end – the end being money,” she said.
For Department of Social Services Commissioner Steve Banks, the alleged scheme on “vulnerable New Yorkers” showed “not only a clear intention to defraud Medicaid but also an absolute disregard for human dignity.”
Quoting both comments, Floyd’s lawsuit casts wider blame upon the “negligence of the pharmaceutical industry by turning a blind eye.”
“It is due to the actions of the pharmaceutical industry, as well as medical providers such as the defendants, that the opioid epidemic was created and has spiraled out of control,” the complaint states.
Duane Reade and Actavis ignored “obvious red flags” that the medical providers operated “pill mills” in order to keep earning “tremendous profits” from oxycodone sales, according to the lawsuit.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that nearly two million U.S. citizens either abused or were dependent on opioid medications in 2014, and the agency described addiction to the drugs as a “public health epidemic” last year.
The lawsuit charges seven counts of medical malpractice, unjust enrichment, fraud, negligence and vicarious responsibility.
Actavis and Duane Reade did not respond to email requests for comment made after business hours.