Opiod crisis has affected the lives of too many

The American Press

The opioid crisis has shattered too many lives across Louisiana, and it’s time for the agencies that have a hand in the problem to be held accountable.

Several jurisdictions across Louisiana are following Ohio’s lead and filing lawsuits against drug manufacturers and distributors. St. Martinville, Ascension, New Orleans and LaSalle parishes, the city of Donaldsonville and the Richland Parish Sheriff’s Office have joined the chorus of communities to sue over the opioid epidemic.

As of June 2018, more than 600 Ohio county and city governments have filed opioid-related lawsuits, according to ConsumerSafety.org. When combined, the suits are demanding billions of dollars to confront the epidemic. The plaintiffs allege that, for over two decades, drug makers have widely advertised their opioid products as virtually non-addictive, even when prescribed for a patient’s long-term pain management.

Painesville Township, Ohio, is one of the communities hardest hit by the crisis statewide. Over the past few years the town has consistently seen the first or second most overdose deaths in the county. The crisis has also had a financial cost to the community; according to their lawsuit, the town has seen a significant increase in overdose-related emergency calls, the use of the opioid-overdose reversal medication Naloxone and an increase in crime related to drugs.

Their 293-page lawsuit filed last year lists 29 defendants broken down into manufacturers, distributors, retail pharmacy and physicians. Manufacturing defendants include Purdue Pharma, Teva Pharmaceuticals and Johnson & Johnson, among others. The distributor defendants are McKesson Corporation, Amerisource Drug Corporation, Cardinal Health and Miami-Luken. Retail pharmacy defendants are CVS Health Corporation, Walgreens Boots Alliance, Walmart and Rite Aid of Maryland.

“(Painesville Township) has taken steps and will foreseeably continue to take steps in efforts to combat the opioid epidemic which has been caused by the actions of the defendants,” the lawsuit states. “Those government efforts create an increased cost and spending. But even these alarming statistics do not fully communicate the toll of prescription opioid abuse on patients and their families.”

Louisiana communities can relate.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that in 2015, the number of opioid prescriptions written in the Bayou State exceeded the number of residents, for a per-capita prescription rate nearly 50 percent higher than the national average.

In addition to the toll on those who suffer addiction, the Advocate reports the epidemic has been costly to state and local governments in the fields of law enforcement, emergency response and health care.

St. Martinville, the latest community to file suit, is calculating police overtime and other costs related specifically to opioid addiction, attorney Allan Durand told the Advocate.

The lawsuits in Louisiana could join the multi-district proceedings in Ohio, or the communities could choose to sue separately. Lawsuits from 30 California counties have been consolidated into the case being heard in Ohio.

The lawsuits are being likened to a 1998 ruling against tobacco companies that gave a total of $206 billion to all but four U.S. states over a quarter-century timeline.

The ripple effects of opioid abuse extend beyond addicts and their families into a myriad of services people rely on every day. Those who lost their lives because of an opioid overdose, along with their surviving families, deserve justice.