Detroit Gears Up To Sue Drug Makers For Allegedly Hooking The Nation On Opioids

Steve Birr | Vice Reporter

Officials in Detroit are getting ready to launch a lawsuit against pharmaceutical companies that manufacture opioid painkillers, which are devastating the community.

The Detroit City Council hired The Sam Bernstein Law Firm PLLC Tuesday to represent the city against drug makers in an effort to hold them accountable for the opioid epidemic currently plaguing the nation. Melvin Hollowell, Detroit’s corporation counsel, said the city hopes to have the lawsuit filed by the end of the year to ensure the city is part of any potential broader settlement with cities across the country, reports Crain’s Detroit Business.

Hollowell said that such a settlement could take years of litigation and may never come, but noted it is important for the city to not repeat past mistakes. Detroit “made a strategic error,” according to Hollowell, by not joining in lawsuits against tobacco companies in the 1990s and mortgage companies following the housing crisis.

“I wanted to make sure that we were represented in this case as an independent party in light of the devastating damages that are being suffered in our community,” Hollowell told Crain’s Detroit Business.

It is not clear which pharmaceutical companies will be targeted in the Detroit lawsuit.

Lawsuits are mounting against the largest drug makers in the country for their alleged complicity in sparking the opioid crisis through dishonest advertising. Indianapolis is one of more than 75 cities and states currently suing pharmaceutical companies.

The pharmaceutical companies deny wrongdoing, and say they are committed to working with the government to solve the opioid epidemic.

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 that 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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