By DENNIS GRUBAUGH
EDWARDVILLE — Madison County officials are planning one of their most ambitious economic development events, a two-day summit aimed at gathering leaders, businessmen, government officials and others for a deep discussion on moving the area forward.
Preliminary response has been so good that organizers scrambled to find a venue large enough to accommodate it, said Kristen Poshard, chief deputy director of Madison County Community Development. Hundreds of people have expressed interest.
“Word travels really fast,” she said. “We hadn’t even talked about this publicly, and we had so many people say they want to attend.”
Such is the interest in what is being called the M.I.C. Summit — the letters standing for Model Innovative County. It will be held April 6 and 7 at Lewis and Clark Community College’s Historic N.O. Nelson Complex in Edwardsville. The daylong sessions will be devoted to several economic subjects.
“Right now, we have 12 different goal topics,” said Poshard, who was appointed to the post by new County Board Chairman Kurt Prenzler in December. “Each one will have a panel that will talk about different innovative ideas. Then, we’ll open it up to a roundtable format so the people in the audience can ask questions and propose different things. Then, we’ll go into the next topic. People don’t have to attend every single topic session.”
The first hour of each day will be a networking session. Speakers will introduce various segments.
Poshard hopes to get state and federal agencies and elected officials involved, manufacturers involved with local logistics operations and as many local movers and shakers as possible.
By ALAN J. ORTBALS
Gateway operator now in eight states, more sites in works
As a teenager, Sal Akbani immigrated to Chicago from Pakistan with his family in the 1970s. He came to the St. Louis area to attend Parks College in Cahokia where he became a licensed airplane mechanic and pilot.
But, in 1998 he was working as an independent business consultant assisting entrepreneurs with their financing needs. One day he received an inquiry from a couple of gentlemen in Alton, who were seeking to finance their fledgling classic car business.
“I looked at their portfolio and business plan and immediately knew it was not a bankable deal,” Akbani said. “There were no assets because they were simply leasing space and consigning cars. So, as a business they had no assets; they had no building, no inventory, no accounts payable, etc. Banks won’t finance a business like that.”
Akbani had always been interested in cars. He said he started driving at 12 and owned his first car when he was just 14, and he thought this was the kind of business he would be interested getting into. With the help of family and friends, he was able to raise about $200,000 with the idea that he would simply be an investor and leave the classic car business to his new partners. They opened operations on Feb. 8, 1998, in the former Venture store in Fairmont City but it didn’t take long for him to figure out that his partners were liabilities and had to go.
By ALAN J. ORTBALS
Council marketing area’s availability for business
After spending a year selling Southwestern Illinois to the home folks, the Leadership Council Southwestern Illinois is taking its show on the road.
Members made a presentation to the top brass of the Union Pacific Railroad last month at its headquarters in Omaha, Neb., and Executive Director Ronda Sauget made the same presentation to the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity’s international team at a recent luncheon.
“DCEO has translated it into at least nine languages,” Sauget said, “and their international reps will be out there talking to their clients from Asia to Europe to South America and making our presentation.”
The impetus for the new, aggressive, marketing campaign is the pending completion of the 10-year effort to restore the American Bottom levee system with Federal Emergency Management Agency accreditation expected later this year.
NEW YORK – Simmons Hanly Conroy, one of the nation’s largest law firms focused on consumer protection and mass tort actions, has filed lawsuits on behalf of New York’s Broome and Erie counties against pharmaceutical companies and physicians over what is being called aggressive and fraudulent marketing of prescription opium-like painkillers (opioids) that has led to a drug epidemic in the counties.
In complaints filed Feb. 1 in the New York Supreme Court, the counties seek relief including compensatory and punitive damages for the millions of dollars they spend each year to combat the public nuisance created by the drug companies’ deceptive marketing campaign that misrepresents the safety and efficacy of long-term opioid use. The lawsuits follow a similar, ongoing action filed by Simmons Hanly Conroy in August 2016 on behalf of Suffolk County, N.Y.
“Broome and Erie counties are the latest in a growing list of jurisdictions to conclude that the defendant drug companies must be held responsible for their conspiratory and fraudulent actions and the injury to the counties and their residents that has resulted from the opioid epidemic,” said Simmons Hanly Conroy Shareholder Paul Hanly, lead counsel for Broome and Erie counties in these cases. “The defendants have manufactured, promoted and marketed opioids by omitting critical information that has long been known about the drugs’ addictive qualities and other risks associated their prolonged use.”
According to the complaint for Broome County, the county in 2014 had 458 opioid-related emergency department admissions and 12 deaths reportedly caused by prescription opioid overdose. Located in south-central New York, Broome has a population of about 200,600, according to the 2010 census. Erie, a county with about 919,040 residents (2010 census) that is situated in the western portion of the state, reported 2,328 opioid-related emergency department admissions in 2014, which represents a 46.9 percent increase since 2010.
The lawsuits for both counties also point to criminal activity, including murder and drug-trafficking offenses, as well as costs the counties have incurred and continue to incur related to opioid addiction and abuse, such as those covering health care, criminal justice and victimization, social aspects and lost productivity.
The lawsuits allege deceptive acts and practices, false advertising, public nuisance, violation of New York Social Services laws, fraud, and unjust enrichment against defendants Purdue Pharma L.P.; Purdue Pharma Inc.; The Purdue Frederick Company, Inc.; Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc.; Cephalon, Inc.; Johnson & Johnson; Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc. n/k/a Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc.; Janssen Pharmaceutical, Inc. n/k/a Janssen Pharmaceuticals; Endo Health Solutions Inc.; and Endo Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; as well as physicians Russell Portenoy, Perry Fine, Scott Fishman and Lynn Webster, who were allegedly instrumental in promoting opioids for sale and distribution nationally and in Suffolk County.
Commonly known by brand names including OxyContin and Percocet, opioids are considered an appropriate treatment for certain types of short-term pain and for palliative end-of-life care. Substantial evidence exists that opioid drugs are ineffective to treat chronic pain, and actually worsen patients’ health. In addition, opioids are derived from or possess properties similar to opium and heroin, and are highly addictive and dangerous, which is why the U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulates them as controlled substances.
The lawsuits allege that the defendants sought to create a false perception in the minds of physicians, patients, health care providers and health care payors that using opioids to treat chronic pain was safe for most patients and that the drugs’ benefits outweighed the risks. This was allegedly perpetrated through a civil conspiracy involving a coordinated, sophisticated and highly deceptive (unbranded to evade the extensive regulatory framework governing branded communications) promotion and marketing campaign that began in the late 1990s, became more aggressive around 2006, and is ongoing. Specifically, the complaints detail how the plaintiffs allegedly poured significant financial resources into generating articles, continuing medical education courses and other “educational” materials, conducting sales visits to doctors, and supporting a network of professional societies and advocacy groups – all of which was successful in its intended purpose of creating a new and phony “consensus” supporting the long-term use of opioids.
The National Institutes of Health also identifies drug companies’ “aggressive marketing” as a major contributor to the nation’s opioid abuse problem. Despite a lack of scientific evidence that supports the use of opioids for long-term pain management, since 1999, the amount of prescribed opioids in the United States has nearly quadrupled to a total of 254 million prescriptions in 2010 – enough to medicate every U.S. adult around the clock for a month. In 2012, opioids generated $8 billion in revenue for drug companies.
Simmons Hanly Conroy shareholders Paul Hanly and Jayne Conroy have held court-appointed leadership roles of national scope in litigation against pharmaceutical companies brought by consumers harmed by dangerous drugs. In 2006, Hanly and Conroy successfully resolved litigation against Purdue Pharma LLP and Abbot Laboratories, Inc., alleging that 5,000 clients’ addictions to OxyContin was a result of the manufacturer’s fraudulent marketing campaign that claimed the drug was not as addictive as alternative drugs.
About Simmons Hanly Conroy, LLC
Simmons Hanly Conroy LLC is one of the nation’s largest mass tort law firms. Primary areas of litigation include asbestos and mesothelioma, pharmaceutical, consumer protection, environmental and personal injury. The firm’s attorneys have been appointed to leadership in numerous national multidistrict litigations, including Vioxx, Yaz, Toyota Unintended Acceleration and DePuy Pinnacle. The firm also represents small and mid-size corporations, inventors and entrepreneurs in matters involving business litigation. Offices are located in New York City, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, St. Louis, and Alton, Ill. Read more at www.simmonsfirm.com.