Buncombe County is suing five manufacturers and three wholesale distributors of opioids, as the number of overdoses in the county on those drugs has sharply risen again this year. It’s an approach other governments at all levels across the U.S. have tried.
In the first eight months of this year, the number of emergency room visits in Buncombe County due to opioid overdoses nearly tripled as opposed to last year. That’s just one of many statistics that gives county board of commissioners chair Brownie Newman pause. He believes the manufacturers of opioids are ultimately to blame. “They are some of the largest companies in the country, and they’ve made millions, billions of dollars really, off of the way they have placed these drugs in the community. And in many ways we believe they have also provided misinformation to the medical community about the nature of these drugs that lead to them being overprescribed.”
Getting more information on opioids, and how they’re distributed, is part of what the lawsuit is seeking in damages. The county also seeks money, which Newman says would go toward treatments programs for those addicted as well as toward the higher cost of caring for babies born with opioid-related medical conditions. But an exact dollar amount wasn’t specified when the suit was filed Tuesday morning.
The county hired an outside law firm to handle the case, and commissioners say those lawyers will pay all expenses to litigate, meaning no taxpayer money will be spent on the lawsuit. If it's successful, then the attorneys will receive compensation from the dollar amount recovered in the lawsuit.
The manufacturers being sued are
- Perdue Pharma
- Teva Pharmaceutical Industries and its subsidiary Cephalon
- Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiary Jansssen Pharmaceuticals
- Endo Health Solutions
- Allergan, Activis, and Watson Pharmaceuticals
The three wholesale distributors named in the suit are
- Cardinal Health
- AmerisourceBergen Drug