Following in the footsteps of the city of Dayton and the state of Ohio, Montgomery County plans to sue drug companies or others that county officials allege helped cause the opioid addiction and overdose epidemic that has ravaged the Dayton region and communities across the country.
At a press conference Tuesday afternoon, Montgomery County commissioners announced they have approved an agreement with Motley Rice, one of the nation’s largest plaintiffs’ litigation firms, to take legal action against “individuals and entities related to the marketing, prescribing, distribution or sale of opioids.”
Montgomery County has hired the firm to investigate and then litigate claims related to the marketing and overprescribing of powerful opioid medications, said Mary Montgomery, chief of civil division of the Montomery County prosecutor’s office.
She said the goal is to hold those people and companies responsible for the opioid crisis accountable for it and try to recover the costs to taxpayers. That includes drug treatment programs, medical care, hospitalizations, law enforcement, prosecution and incarceration, Montgomery said.
Other costs include caring for the children whose parents have died of a drug overdose or who have lost custody because of their drug use, she said.
“Any money recovered will be for treatment programs as well as to reimburse the county for all of the expenses just mentioned,” she said.
Montgomery County has been particularly hard-hit by the opiate crisis, county officials said, noting that between 60 to 70 percent of the bodies in the county morgue last summer were overdose victims.
In 2016, prescribers in the county wrote almost 93 opioid prescriptions for every 100 residents, and there were more opioid prescriptions written each year between 2006 and 2015 than there were people living in the county, said Montomery.
“Nationally, the economic toll of the opioid crisis is estimated to have topped $1 trillion from 2001 to 2017,” she said.
Motley Rice, based in Washington, D.C., is lead counsel in lawsuits filed against pharmaceutical companies by the city of Chicago and Santa Clara County. The firm also represents four states, seven counties and a handful of cities and townships in other opioid-related litigation.
Last year, Santa Clara County, home to Silicon Valley in California, reached a $1.6 million settlement with drug maker Teva over “deceptive” marketing of prescription opioid painkillers, according to Motley Rice.
Closer to home, the city of Dayton last June announced it was suing more than a dozen pharmaceutical companies, distributors and pain specialists who city officials allege misrepresented the dangers of opioid medications and profited from opioid dependency and use.
This is about basic fairness for Montgomery County taxpayers, and the companies that ignited and fed this deadly epidemic should help clean it up, said Commissioner Dan Foley.
“We believe … that the drug companies have a moral obligation to pay our community back,” Foley said.