The city of Santa Fe is the latest governmental entity to join a lawsuit against opioid drug manufacturers and distributors.
The city filed the lawsuit Tuesday in District Court, alleging the companies knowingly created and distributed addictive and dangerous drugs for profit while destroying lives and straining public resources in the process.
Also named in the lawsuit are Dr. John Bray-Morris and Nicole Renee Broderson. According to the complaint, Bray-Morris recently agreed to voluntarily surrender his license “based upon his prescribing of dangerous opioid controlled substances in violation of New Mexico law.” Broderson, listed as a nurse practitioner, was convicted in 2017 for unlawfully dispensing dangerous controlled opioid substances, according to the lawsuit.
“As a direct consequence of actions of the practitioners, including Dr. Bray-Morris and Nurse Broderson, the rampant use, overuse and abuse of opioids has overwhelmed much of New Mexico, including the City and its residents,” the lawsuit says.
There has been a cascade of lawsuits — more than 2,000 — filed by cities, counties and states nationwide in recent years against Purdue Pharma, which makes the opioid OxyContin, as well as Johnson & Johnson, Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals, Walgreens Boots Alliance, Walmart Stores Inc. and others.
“Unlike the crack cocaine and crystal methamphetamine epidemics that preceded it, this drug crisis began with a corporate business plan,” the lawsuit filed by the city says.
Purdue Pharma decided to “promote opioids deceptively and illegally to significantly increase sales,” the lawsuit says.
Deaths from opioids were five times higher in 2017 than in 1999, according to the lawsuit.
For decades, the rate of drug overdose deaths in New Mexico has exceeded the national average. But in the period between 2013 and 2017, Santa Fe County’s overdose rate spiked above even the state average — with nearly 50 percent of those deaths from opioids.
In May, seven New Mexico counties — Cibola, Valencia, Catron, Sierra, Curry, Lincoln and Socorro — filed similar lawsuits against Purdue Pharma and other manufacturers and distributors. They accused the companies of negligence, conspiracy, fraud and violating state law.
The counties said the drug epidemic had taxed the jail and legal systems, harmed babies born with opioids in their bodies and contributed to delayed development in children, among other medical problems.
Santa Fe County and the state of New Mexico also have filed lengthy legal complaints.