On September 27, 2017 I presented before the Wyoming County Attorney’s Association on the opioid crisis and the impact same was having on Wyoming. The opioid crisis is the worst public health crisis of our generation; far outpacing smoking.
Since 2015 approximately 25 states, counties and municipalities have filed lawsuits against the Opioid manufacturers alleging deceptive and fraudulent advertising.
The marketing blitz has worked extremely well (for the pharma co’s) as the numbers reflect: more than 140 people die every day from an opioid drug overdose.
Withdrawal symptoms have been described in the medical literature as being far worse than often the underlying pain that was being treated in the first place. Young people have posted online videos of the traumatic withdrawals they have gone through, and they are absolutely heart breaking. (See video here).
Remarkably, my impression has been that most public officials at the local level do not appreciate the true impact this epidemic is having in our communities.
President Trump announced on August 10, 2017 that he would be declaring the opioid epidemic a National Emergency yet, to date, he still has yet to do so.
Moreover, just yesterday, the Washington Post and 60 Minutes reported that Todd Marino, nominated for the country’s “drug czar”, received enormous amounts of campaign money from the pharmaceutical industry and sponsored legislation that hindered the Drug Enforcement Agency from being able to adequately and aggressively go after the opioid manufacturers. See more here. (While writing this article, Marino withdrew himself from consideration for drug czar, no doubt in light of the Washington Post and 60 minutes piece).
What does all this mean? That the fight against the opioid manufacturers must be brought by the public, through their AG’s, their county attorneys, city attorneys or private lawyers.
Litigation against the manufacturers will be, and has been, extremely expensive. The issues are complex and all consuming for most private firms; much less for small county attorney offices. But the private sector is prepared to help, and can do so by fronting costs and expenses to counties and municipalities and taking on the stress of the litigation.
Wyoming and Colorado has yet to have a single county or municipality join in the recovery. Having grown up in Colorado and now living in Wyoming, it was of particular interest to me to see which counties in each state were the hardest hit by the opioid crisis.
According to the NY Times, the following represents the hardest hit counties in Wyoming in descending order:
The hardest hit counties in Colorado in descending order:
- Las Animas
- El Paso
Absent counties fending for themselves, the likelihood of any recovery at the county level is extremely small. Counties should not pass up the opportunity to join forces with qualified litigation firms in an effort to replinish much needed resources to combat this epidemic.
At my firm, we have joined forces with other prominent firms across the country to take on the opioid manufacturers the way in which they deserve to be battled.