(CLEVELAND) – A lawsuit filed late yesterday in Cleveland, Ohio on behalf of Teamsters’ Health and Welfare Funds in West Virginia and Ohio demands accountability for the opioid crisis and the toll it has taken on Teamsters and their health and welfare funds.
The lawsuit takes aim at pharmacy benefit managers along with a range of opioid drug manufacturers and distributors alleging a highly-coordinated scheme promoting opioids to treat pain at the expense of Americans, including thousands of Teamster members, retirees and family members. The lawsuit is among the first looking to hold pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs)–which administer and manage the prescription drug programs provided by the benefit plans–accountable for their role in fueling the opioid epidemic.
“The opioid crisis is devastating American families across the country particularly in communities where Teamsters work and live,” said Ken Hall, General Secretary-Treasurer of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters whose Local Union’s health and welfare fund in the hard-hit state of West Virginia is among the plaintiffs. “Our nation’s pharmaceutical distributors and manufacturers have put profits before people and it’s got to stop.”
West Virginia has suffered the highest opioid overdose death rate in the country.
In Ohio, which is home to 50,000 Teamster members, opioids are the main source of fatal drug overdoses. Teamsters in physically demanding jobs – like those in construction and manufacturing – are at particularly high-risk because prescription opioids have been commonly prescribed to treat on-the-job injuries.
There is no long-term study showing the safety and efficacy of opioids for long-term use, but there re numerous studies clearly demonstrating the highly addictive quality of the drugs and their lethal effects even when used at recommended doses. The scheme alleged in the lawsuit has already had catastrophic effects on Teamster families and hurt the union’s health and welfare benefit funds.
The Teamster Health and Welfare Benefit Funds collectively provide health care coverage for thousands of active and retired Teamsters as well as their family members and bear much of the financial costs of opioid prescriptions – as well as treating dependence, abuse and addiction – by those it insures.
Plaintiffs in this lawsuit include Teamsters Local Nos. 175 & 505 Health & Welfare Fund; Employer – Teamsters Local Nos. 175 & 505 Retiree Health & Welfare Fund; Employer – Teamsters Local Nos. 348 Health & Welfare Fund; Teamsters Union Local No. 52 Health and Welfare Fund; and Ohio Conference of Teamsters & Industry Health and Welfare Fund.
Founded in 1903, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters represents 1.4 million hardworking men and women throughout the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. Visit www.teamster.org for more information. Follow us on Twitter @Teamsters and “like” us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/teamsters.