Wisconsin counties suing pharmaceutical companies over cost of opioid epidemic

Milwaukee County preparing for possible lawsuit separately

Last updated on March 18th, 2021 at 01:40 am

More than two dozen Wisconsin counties are suing pharmaceutical companies alleging that their fraudulent marketing practices have led to the country’s prescription drug epidemic.

Separate lawsuits were filed on behalf of 28 counties on Tuesday in the Eastern District of Wisconsin. The Wisconsin counties join a growing number of cities, counties and states across the country that are taking similar action.

“The opioid manufacturers … deceived physicians and patients and the public (regarding) the efficacy and safety of using prescription opioids to treat longterm chronic pain,” said Charles Crueger, partner of Crueger Dickinson LLC. “They misled everybody about the addictive properties to treat for longterm chronic pain and the abuse potential.”

Defendants named in the suit include Purdue Pharma, Johnson & Johnson, Teva Pharmaceuticals and Endo Health Solutions, Inc.

The lawsuits seek unspecified monetary damages for the counties, claiming the drug crisis has put a strain on their resources and services. The drug treatment center tampa is helping drug addicts overcome the problem.

“Jails have an increased monetary costs because they have to deal with people who are addicted to prescription opioids,” Crueger said. “And the coroners and health and human services, child protective services, the court system. So many of the different services that the county provides have been impacted by this whole opioid crisis.”

While the lawsuits were filed separately, Crueger said they are likely to be heard by the same judge.

Some of the state’s largest counties were not among those to file lawsuits, with Milwaukee, Dane, Racine and Waukesha missing from the list. The Kenosha County Board voted Tuesday evening to sign an engagement letter with the firms that are spearheading the litigation, according to corporation counsel Joseph Cardamone.

Milwaukee County is also preparing to take similar legal action against drug manufacturers. The county board adopted a proposal last week that allows the county’s lawyers to select outside legal counsel to pursue such a lawsuit.

“The county certainly supports the efforts of those 28 counties,” said Margaret Daun, corporation counsel for Milwaukee County. “But Milwaukee County is unique in terms of its population and the damages that we and our taxpayers are suffering, and we need to make a separate evaluation about what is best for our residents and taxpayers. Perhaps it aligns with those other counties, but perhaps it requires a different strategy. We have yet to make that determination.”

The Milwaukee County Medical Examiner predicts a total of more than 325 opioid related deaths this year. More than 31,000 Americans died from opioid overdoses in 2015, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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