Greenwich family sues drug company after overdose death of son

Greenwich family sues drug company after overdose death of son

GREENWICH — A lawsuit has been filed by the parents of a Greenwich college student who died of a heroin overdose against the manufacturer of a prescription drug they claim led to his death.

Laurence and Michelle Allen are suing the makers of Suboxone, which was used to treat a previous addiction to painkillers that their son fell into following a car accident. When the Suboxone prescription ran out, according to court papers, Bradley Allen, 19, turned to street heroin and died of an overdose in 2014.

 The lawsuit filed earlier this year in U.S. District Court seeks $100 million from Indivor, the company that makes Suboxone. The lawsuit by the Allens, and others like it, is adopting a number of strategies against the narcotics industry that recall efforts to force tobacco companies to pay for the death and disease caused by cigarettes in the 1990s.

Laurence Allen, an investment banker, confirmed his participation in the lawsuit and other efforts he is engaging in to combat the scourge of opioid-addiction, but he declined to discuss specifics.

Bradley Allen, his son, appeared to be on a path toward success until pain medication changed his life after a car accident in 2010, according to the lawsuit. His doctors prescribed hydrocodone for pain management, “and at some point into his prescribed opioid regimen, he became dependent on opioid-based medication.”

In order to wean him from painkillers, Allen was prescribed Suboxone, a common treatment protocol for opioid addiction. Suboxone mimics the effects of stronger opium-based drugs, but at a lower level of intensity, and it prevents users from experiencing painful withdrawal symptoms. The Allens contend that “Brad had become completely addicted to Suboxone … he replaced one addiction with another,” according to the lawsuit.


Bradley Allen attempted to end his Suboxone usage with an intensive in-patient program in December of 2013. After being released, he returned to his family’s Greenwich home. He watched a movie with his family one evening in late January, went upstairs and took heroin. His parents found him dead the next morning at their Maple Avenue residence. The Medical Examiner’s office found that the drug had been injected.

The lawsuit claims the drug maker was aware that its product was “unreasonably dangerous and defective when used as directed and as designed.” The Allens claim Invidor failed to “disclose to the medical community” that Suboxone could cause addiction.

Lawyers representing Invidor in the case, and the Invidor media office, did not respond to numerous requests for comment by phone and email.

The Allen lawsuit is one of a number of legal challenges that big pharmaceutical companies are contending with as opioid addiction continues to plague the nation, claiming the lives of some 40 Americans every day.

Two counties in California sued five of the world’s largest narcotics manufacturers in 2014 over costs incurred to public health, but the lawsuits did not advance due to jurisdictional issues. The city of Chicago is in litigation with a drug company, Pfizer, leading to some new marketing changes. The Chicago lawsuit revealed that the big players in the painkiller industry spent $288 million on marketing in 2011, three times the 2000 amount. A number of state legislatures, governors and attorneys-general are said to be weighing the possibility of lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies around the country, and large law firms are currently soliciting clients to sue big pharmaceuticals over drug overdoses.

It might seem like a repeat of the tobacco industry litigation that led to a $246 billion settlement and strict new marketing codes on cigarettes. But a legal expert said the claims against Big Pharma have a long way to go before they come close to achieving what the tobacco lawsuits did. As of yet there have been no major pay-outs or court victories by plaintiffs against drug companies.

Lawsuits like the one filed by the Allen family will likely have to overcome two hurdles, said Jeremy Zimmermann, a product-liability specialist and an adjunct professor at the Quinnipiac University School of Law.

“There’s the question of what warnings were given to the physicians. The pharmaceutical companies are responsible for giving appropriate warnings so they can responsibly prescribe (drugs) for patients,” he said. “The key phrase in product liability is: were the warnings inadequate, to such an extent that the drug itself would be considered ‘unreasonably dangerous?’ ”

Establishing a chain of causation is another key issue in litigation, according to Zimmermann.

“He died of an overdose of heroin — he didn’t die of an overdose of Suboxone,” he said. “The question is going to be — was he caused to take the heroin because of his use of Suboxone?”

That will be for a number of expert witnesses to argue over, should the case go to trial.

The tobacco-litigation comparison is too early to make, Zimmermann said. “It’s difficult to say whether there’s going to be success or not.”

Larry Allen is working on other fronts with help from to fight opioid addiction, aside from litigation. He has established the Allen Research Endowment, a non-profit venture. A goal is to promote research into developing non-addictive pain medication. Allen said he is also interested in highlighting the link between politicians and donations from pharmaceutical companies through the years.

The group’s website is

Bradley Allen was a student at Washington College in Maryland. He was a lover of the outdoors — a skier and a boater — who played guitar and took part in a number of community-service projects, according to obituary information.

3 Responses

  1. Suboxone is probably the one thing that could have saved their son’s life. Who had the bright idea to wean him off of it? The rehab industry is close to useless with at best a 5 to 10% success rate, unless suboxone or methadone is part of the treatment. The proximate cause of death is the facility that detoxed him, and likely his parents if they encouraged or insisted he get off suboxone. The Suboxone controlled his craving, but detox brought it roaring back, while at the same time reducing his tolerance. Google it, you’ll find that many addicts OD soon after leaving rehab. Rehab is a revolving door, they know that most will relapse once they’re out the door, but they don’t warn the “recovered” addict about the lower tolerance.

  2. here we go again,,,in NewYork,,beautiful klondike bars territory,,,,more of us will die,,for a PARENTS BROKEN HEART,,THUS revenge,,, HELLL HAVE NO FURRY THEN A WOMEN SCORNED!!!!!!!!!!!!! sorry,,,Iv’e had enough of this type of crap,,,mary

  3. “Large law firms are soliciting clients to sue big pharme co. over drug overdoses”. Where are the law firms that should be helping us chronic pain patients who are being denied medication that has been proven to help us with our escalating, non surgical conditions? While I have sympathy for anyone that has to deal with the loss of a loved one due to overdose, I also have great sympathy for the families of pain patients that have committed suicide due to non or under treatment of pain. Think about that for a moment, watching someone you love suffer so bad their only alternative is to end it all. Especially when they have been treated for years with non escalating opioid medications and then have them reduced or taken away. Look at what is happening to our Veterans. Where are the law firms for us?

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