Opioid Crisis — Teamster Health & Welfare Funds

M&S currently represents Teamsters’ Health and Welfare Funds in Ohio and West Virginia in the multi-district opioid litigation underway in federal court in Cleveland, Ohio. Our clients demand accountability for the opioid crisis by taking aim at a range of opioid drug manufacturers, distributors, and pharmacy benefit companies and allege a highly-coordinated scheme promoting opioids to treat pain at the expense of Americans, including thousands of Teamster members. In Ohio, which is home to 50,000 Teamster members, opioids are the main source of drug overdoses. West Virginia has suffered the highest opioid overdose death rate in the country. Blue-collar workers—like the construction, mining and manufacturing workers that the Teamsters represent—are at particularly high-risk of abusing opioids that are commonly prescribed to treat on-the-job injuries.

The Teamster Health and Welfare Benefit Funds collectively provide health care coverage for thousands of active and retired Teamsters and bear much of the financial costs of opioid use—as well as dependence, abuse and addiction—by those it insures.

This litigation is just one part of the Teamsters mobilization at the local and national levels to combat the opioid crisis. M&S filed the suit along with co-counsel, Henrichsen Siegel, on behalf of plaintiffs which 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. Read more about the lawsuit in “Opioid Epidemic: New Lawsuit Filed Against Drug Manufacturers” (The Patch).

In 2018, M&S and co-counsel filed a motion on behalf of their Teamster clients demanding that the nation’s three largest pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs)—CVS Caremark, OptumRX, and Express Scripts (known as the big three)—introduce edits into their national formularies that would restrict inappropriate access to opioids and expand access to medications that prevent overdose and help treat addiction. In July 2019, after months of inaction by the Big Three, the Court took critical steps to address the crisis, setting common sense lower limits for opioid prescriptions offered by the Big Three by consent order. Cyrus Mehri applauded the action saying, “Our clients, led by Teamsters International General Secretary Treasurer Ken Hall, took Judge Polster’s call to action to heart by welcoming the opportunity to join this innovative solution that will save lives. We will hold the PBMs accountable to the letter and spirit of Judge Polster’s order.” Cyrus went on to say in Law 360, which covered the decision, “What happened here with this consent order is the first step to-ward stemming the rising tide of the opioid crisis and we’re very proud of everyone involved.” The decision was also covered by Reuters.