Forsyth County considers suing opioid manufacturers

- Forsyth County could join another metro area and a more than a hundred county governments nationwide in filing a lawsuit against big pharmaceutical companies, in response to the overwhelming opioid crisis hitting the nation.

Nearby, Fulton County announced their lawsuit against drug manufacturers in October.

Forsyth County officials said its attorneys are reviewing the options for the lawsuit, which could include demanding companies modify their warning labels, fund anti-addiction education campaigns, and even paying for the overwhelming costs facing county first responders who rush to overdose calls.

"These lawsuits are sort of a desperation-- they're a reaction to how critical and tragic a problem that we're facing," said Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills. 

County officials said deputies and firefighters have responded to more than 30 overdose calls in one year; 22 of those people have died from a drug overdose or suicide by taking drugs, said Commissioner Mills. 

"Pharmaceutical companies and the doctors that are overprescribing should be held responsible to some level," said Board Chairman Todd Levent, comparing the legal action nationwide to similar action decades ago against tobacco companies. 

Levent said the county could possibly take some sort of legal action by the end of the year.

Legal experts nationwide debate the effectiveness of the lawsuits, which some say place blame on companies abiding by current federal and state laws for manufacturing and distributing medication.

Purdue Pharma, one of the companies named in multiple suits that are known for manufacturing OxyContin, released the following statement

“We are deeply troubled by the opioid crisis and we are dedicated to being part of the solution. As a company grounded in science, we must balance patient access to FDA-approved medicines, while working collaboratively to solve this public health challenge. Although our products account for approximately 2 percent of the total opioid prescriptions, as a company, we’ve distributed the CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain, developed the first FDA-approved opioid medication with abuse-deterrent properties and partner with law enforcement to ensure access to naloxone. We vigorously deny these allegations and look forward to the opportunity to present our defense.”

The Board of Commissioners plans to meet on Tuesday afternoon to discuss the issue and attorney recommendations.

“We are deeply troubled by the opioid crisis and we are dedicated to being part of the solution. As a company grounded in science, we must balance patient access to FDA-approved medicines, while working collaboratively to solve this public health challenge. Although our products account for approximately 2 percent of the total opioid prescriptions, as a company, we’ve distributed the CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain, developed the first FDA-approved opioid medication with abuse-deterrent properties and partner with law enforcement to ensure access to naloxone. We vigorously deny these allegations and look forward to the opportunity to present our defense.”

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