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The Kewaunee County Personnel, Advisory and Legislative Committee was scheduled Monday to consider forwarding a resolution to the County Board to join a pending lawsuit against opioid drug manufacturers to cover the law enforcement, medical bills and other costs incurred because of opioid abuse.
The law firms of von Briesen & Roper, s.c., Crueger Dickinson LLC and Simmons Hanly Conroy LLL have distributed information to area counties outlining the potential for counties to pursue legal claims against several pharmaceutical companies that the law firms say have played a key role in creating what many are calling the “opioid epidemic.”
The resolution, which was scheduled to be presented to the Oconto County Board on Thursday as well, cites the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention as saying the societal costs of opioid abuse amount to more than $75 billion annually.
According to materials provided by the law firms, the amount of opioids dispensed across the United States quadrupled from 1999 to 2013, and about 259 million opioid prescriptions were written in 2014, after years of aggressive marketing by the companies.
The number of deaths spiked as sales went up, the materials say.
“These dramatically increased sales and the spike in abuse and resultant deaths directly corresponds to Pharma’s decision to market opioids for long-term use despite their known addictive effects,” the law firms allege.
The states of Kentucky and New York, the city of Chicago and a number of individual counties have filed suit against the industry for its role in creating the opioid epidemic.
The attorneys propose coordinated litigation by counties acting together seeking reimbursement of costs incurred by health departments, human resources, sheriff’s departments, courts, and county-owned hospitals among other agencies.
“Unless a critical mass of counties not only file suit and coordinate efforts, it is a safe bet that Pharma will simply continue to fight each individual case without contemplating a resolution,” the law firms say.
The law firms say they are not asking the counties to bear the costs of the litigation and instead will accept a share of the funds recovered in the suit.
The committee meets at noon Monday and may the resolution to the full County Board to review when it meets starting at 5 p.m. Tuesday at the Kewaunee County Administration Center, 810 Lincoln St., Kewaunee.