Officials are joining forces to sue pharmaceutical companies in Salt Lake City over the opioid crisis in an effort to “change the outrageous behavior that is harming families” in Utah.
Ben McAdams, the mayor of Salt Lake County, filed a lawsuit Monday with Utah State Speaker of the House Greg Hughes and Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill against the pharmaceutical industry, that will seek damages for the economic losses of the county from the addiction crisis. The officials allege companies used fraudulent statements to market their drugs to doctors while downplaying the risks for abuse and addiction, reports FOX 13.
The officials are not yet specifying how much in damages they are seeking and which pharmaceutical companies will be named in the lawsuit, saying Monday they will weigh their various legal options over the next two weeks.
“We will no longer be silent and let this happen and go on without accountability,” District Attorney Gill said Monday, according to FOX 13. “As a public prosecutor, I see people in the drug cartel who profit over people suffering, and they exploit that suffering with one common purpose in mind, which is to increase their profit. There is no difference with Big Pharma doing the same thing. They are exploiting that same misery, that same suffering.”
Opioid abuse is running rampant in Utah, a state that had the seventh highest rate of overdose deaths in 2015 in the country. The Utah Department of Health estimates between 24 to 30 residents die from an opioid overdose each month.
Lawsuits are mounting against the largest drug makers in the country for their alleged complicity in sparking the opioid crisis through dishonest advertising. Twenty-eight counties in Wisconsin filed separate lawsuits Nov. 7 against drug makers for spreading death in their communities through false advertising.
President Donald Trump declared the opioid epidemic a “public health emergency” Oct. 26, giving states hit hard by opioid addiction flexibility on how they direct federal resources to combat rising drug deaths.
Data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse released Sept. 7 predicts the addiction epidemic in America will continue to deteriorate, pushing drug deaths to an estimated 71,600 in 2017. If the estimates prove accurate, 2017 will be the second year in a row that drug deaths surpass U.S. casualties from the Vietnam War.
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