The opioid epidemic has the United States in a stranglehold and claims a staggering number of lives every year. Many opioid abusers become addicted to prescription painkillers that are aggressively marketed by pharmaceutical companies, despite their demonstrated tendency to be habit-forming and deadly. Some people abuse these prescription opioids exclusively, while others ultimately turn to street drugs like heroin. As a growing number of people succumb to opioid overdoses, the costs are extending beyond their immediate families to the communities in which they live.
For example, municipalities are finding themselves footing much of the bill in the wake of the opioid epidemic. Just a few of the costs incurred by municipal governments include those associated with providing emergency medical services, drug rehabilitation services, social services, and increased law enforcement. These costs add up quickly, and a growing number of municipalities are asserting that they should be remunerated by the pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors whose greed exacerbated the crisis.
Municipalities across the country have experienced an alarming increase in the number of prescription opioid and heroin overdoses within their jurisdiction since the advent of the opioid epidemic. As such, they have had to devote a tremendous amount of their limited resources to saving the lives of their residents who have become addicted to opioids and preventing the further spread of addiction. In order to recover the money they have spent in this pursuit, some municipalities are beginning to sue the prescription opioid manufacturers and distributors who advertised and sold their products to municipal residents.
The first step many municipalities are taking to build their lawsuits against drug companies is passing a local law declaring the opioid epidemic a public nuisance. Once the epidemic is officially recognized as a public nuisance, officials will decide on a cause of action against the drug companies responsible for it. There are many potential approaches they could take, but so far one popular approach has been a lawsuit alleging the fraudulent and negligent marketing and distribution of opioids within the municipality.
According to the attorney who represents one particular county, a lawsuit relying on this argument would essentially allege that opioid manufacturers and distributors were driven to sell as much of their product as possible in order to maximize profits and, despite the growing number of reports that their drugs were extremely addictive and potentially deadly, they continued to market them as beneficial and obscured their harmful effects. If successful, the municipalities may not only be able to recover the money they have already spent fighting opioid addiction among their residents but will also be able to pursue financial assistance to continue what will, unfortunately, be an ongoing battle.
There are already several municipalities in various states who are standing up to the pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors that are complicit in the spread of the opioid epidemic. If you are a resident or an official of a municipality stricken by a rash of opioid addiction and overdose, you should contact an attorney with the experience and resources to fight on your behalf.
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