Florida counties suing pharmaceutical companies over opioid crisis

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By: Jake Stofan | Capitol News Service
December 19, 2017

(Image Credit: David Pacey / CC BY 2.0 / MGN)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CNS) -- Florida's Attorney General has been investigating pharmaceutical companies since September for their part in causing a statewide opioid crisis.

More than 10 states have filed lawsuits against the pharmaceutical industry. Florida hasn't filed lawsuits against the companies, but some counties are taking it upon themselves to seek restitution.

"We put in a lot of investigation ourselves before we go out and file these lawsuits," said Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi. "We have the ability to gather a lot of documents doing it the way we're doing it."

Three counties have grown tired of waiting for the state to take legal action and have decided to sue on their own. Broward County is the latest, joining more than 100 jurisdictions around the country who have filed suit.

"This is probably our number one public safety and public health crisis right now," said Commissioner Michael Udine of the Broward County Commission. "This is something that you know needs to be addressed."

For the lawsuits to prevail, counties have to prove pharmaceutical companies marketed opioids as safe products despite knowledge of research suggesting the opposite.

It's similar to the state's case against Big Tobacco in the 1990's, which won Florida $13 billion.

Addiction and mental health advocates hope any possible settlements from pharmaceutical companies can go towards addiction services like Central Receiving Facilities.

"They often are the folks on the front line who see the results of addiction and who will actually bring the folks into treatment for their first go around," said Melanie Brown-Woofter of the Florida Council for Community Mental Health.

The AG's office says if drug companies fail to cooperate with the investigation, Florida is ready to file suit in a moment's notice.

More Florida counties are expected to file suit in the next few months. Miami-Dade County and Escambia County have already expressed interest.

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