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NYS Exposed: Monroe Co. to join lawsuit against pharmaceutical companies over opioid crisis

December 05, 2017 11:37 PM

Counties across New York State are now lining up to sue big drugmakers who, they say, are partially to blame for the opioid crisis.

More than two dozen counties are now trying to recoup money from Big Pharma. Livingston County just joined the lawsuit and I learned that Monroe County will be joining within the next few weeks.

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Even if you don't know someone who is or has been addicted to opioids or heroin, you're still paying for their care.

"Public safety, first the sheriff's office, arrests, incarceration, treatment while incarcerated -- that's a big one -- mental health, community health," says Livingston County Administrator Ian Coyle. "Social services, broken families, addiction children, babies once their born, EMS."

There are also the overwhelming costs associated with medical examiners who are tasked with bringing closure to the families of those lost in the epidemic. That's why more than two dozen counties in New York State have or soon will join the lawsuit.

"We go into this litigation very cautiously because this is the industry that is supposed to save our life," says Stephen Acquario, executive director of NYS Association of Counties. "So, we are not doctors, we are just human beings. We are relying on professionals... so how did the professionals come to understand the use of this product."

…And more specifically, the marketing of it. The lawsuit is based on the belief that Big Pharma didn't do long-term studies before pushing doctors to prescribe opioids and then masked the addictive nature of them once they did.

Acquario says, "We have to get this before a court and if the court ultimately holds, 'nope the manufacturers did what they were supposed to do, they did everything to the letter of the law and there's no responsibility,' okay then we've decided that's the law of the land and we can live with that. But I think from the community response right now, we have to do all that we can to bring all these taxpayer cases forward and to have this looked at by a court to see if there's any wrongdoing."

The lawsuit is similar to those against Big Tobacco in the 1990s. New York counties were successful then in recouping money for taxpayers. They're hoping that'll be the case this time around too.

Coyle says, "The county will really take whatever we can get, I guess, out of the process. If it has to be directed and appropriated to programs that are directly connected and related to the costs that we previously incurred on the opioid crisis then that's fine."

Any potential settlement or success is likely years away. Either way, the counties that have signed on won't have to pay anything. The lawyers handle the costs and the work. When and if they win, the money will get divvied up.

Credits

Jennifer Lewke

Copyright 2017 - WHEC-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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