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County asked to join legal fight against drug makers PDF Print E-mail
Daily News
Written by BILL SCHANEN IV   
Wednesday, 04 October 2017 18:14

Counties argue that irresponsible companies fuel addiction crisis that costs billions of dollars

For years, Ozaukee County has fought in criminal court to lock up drug dealers who peddle narcotic pain pills and heroin to feed a seemingly insatiable demand for addictive opioids.
    Now the county is being asked to join other counties in a civil court battle against the pharmaceutical companies that make and market the drugs blamed for a national addiction epidemic that is sapping the local, state and federal agencies tasked with helping those whose lives have been shattered by opioids, a class of drugs that includes prescription pain-killers such as oxycodone and morphine, as well as illegal drugs like heroin.
    “Opioid addiction and mental health issues, which are pretty much intertwined,  drive a significant amount of our budget,” County Administrator Jason Dzwinel said. “Look at our case load in the child protective services and you’ll see it’s drastically up. We don’t have enough foster homes for kids. This is being driven by mental health problems and opioid addiction.”
    The County Board was asked Wednesday to sign onto a lawsuit being organized by the Wisconsin Counties Association against so-called Big Pharma, the pharmaceutical companies that, according to background information distributed to supervisors, “flooded the market with highly addictive drugs claiming they were safe and efficacious for long-term use, manufactured studies to support these false claims and knowingly misrepresented the addictive nature of these drugs.
    “As a result of these misrepresentations, millions of American lives have been impacted or destroyed. The opioid epidemic has in turn imposed huge costs on both county and state governments around the country ....”
    The goal of the lawsuit is to “hold Pharma responsible for their role in creating the opioid epidemic and return to the counties the money spent battling the epidemic at the expense of other critical programming,” according to county documents.
    Ozaukee County and others that join the lawsuit would not bankroll the legal effort. Instead, the law firms representing the counties — the Milwaukee-area firms of van Briesen & Roper and Crueger Dickinson and the national firm of Simmons Hanly Conroy — would bear all costs of litigation and be reimbursed only if there is a judgment in the plaintiff’s favor.
    The responsibility of the counties involved in the lawsuit would be to work with lawyers to document the cost of dealing with opioid addiction. Daily Press