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Union Health Fund Leaders Combat Rising Costs of Opioid Epidemic in the Workplace


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Simmons Hanly Conroy Shareholder Paul Hanly Speaks at LIUNA Midwest Region Laborers’ Combating Opioid Abuse and Drug Free Workplace Conference

Drug overdose deaths in the United States continue to increase, with more than 6 out of 10 drug deaths involving an opioid, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In November, firm shareholder Paul Hanly traveled to St. Louis, Missouri to join union officials at the Laborers’ International Union of North America’s “Combating Opioid Abuse and Drug Free Workplace” conference. The conference, a two-day event, featured presentations from area experts on drug addiction and treatment and offered solutions on how to combat the growing opioid and heroin epidemic.

Laborers strive to provide optimum safety and health information to their members and their families, as well as Signatory Contractors, said Angie Taylor, the director of the Midwest Region Laborers’ Health and Safety Fund, and one of the conference organizers.

“We need to increase our efforts in educating our members, their families, our contractors and our communities regarding the opioid abuse and heroin epidemic,” Tayor said.

Taylor asked Hanly to speak after she learned of his and the firm’s work litigating on behalf of prescription opioid victims. In 2003, Simmons Hanly Conroy filed the first opioid lawsuits against Purdue Pharma and Abbott Laboratories on behalf of 5,000 individuals who lost loved ones to opioid addiction. The lawsuit settled for $75 million in 2006.

More recently, Suffolk County in New York retained Simmons Hanly Conroy to represent the county against pharmaceutical companies that aggressively marketed opioid-like prescription painkillers. A lawsuit filed by Hanly and fellow Shareholder Jayne Conroy seeks relief including compensatory and punitive damages for the millions of dollars the county spends each year combating the opioid epidemic. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, the annual economic burden caused by prescription opioid abuse totals $78.5 billion.

Hanly discussed the economic burden during the conference. Since the first opioid cases were filed in 2003, Purdue Pharma has spent nothing to research the addiction, tolerance or dependence users face when prescribed these drugs, he said. As a result, addiction continues to grow, now earning the name of “Opioid Epidemic.”

During his presentation, Hanly explained that in Suffolk County alone, the number of people using county substance abuse programs increased by 1,136 percent between 1996 and 2011, costing the county millions of dollars.

Suffolk County is a reflection of what’s happening across the country. County, state and municipal governments, along with union health funds and other community groups, are also experiencing growing costs of the epidemic. This growing addiction results in increased funding needs to treat patients in these communities across the country.

“It is fair to say that these opioid manufacturers knew of the dangers of addiction, and still know,” Hanly said. “For them to sit back and not actively participate in fixing this deadly epidemic, they are costing our communities millions of dollars.”

Learn more about the firm’s opioid epidemic case >>>


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