More than two dozen Wisconsin counties have filed federal lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies and their affiliates for their role in making and marketing opioid medications, despite knowing they were addictive.
Lawsuits filed in federal court Tuesday by 28 Wisconsin counties seeks to recover the costs the counties have incurred as a result of having to treat people suffering from addiction, including children born to women addicted to opioids. Wisconsin has taken several steps in recent years to address rising rates of opioid addiction, which includes limiting access to prescription painkillers that can eventually lead to heroin use. The action comes after opiate overdoses in the state nearly doubled in the last decade.
Attorney Erin Dickinson of the Milwaukee based law firm of Crueger Dickinson says county governments have been bearing the brunt of the problem. “The crisis has overwhelmed county-provided services, and has had a devastating effect on the counties’ ability to pay for those services,” Dickinson said during a news conference. “Defendants must be held responsible for the devastating effects their actions have had.”
Washington County Board Chair Rick Gundrum said counties are responding to a crisis that was not of their making. “We are joining forces with other counties to take a stand against big pharma, for the significant role they have played in creating this opioid epidemic.”
Data released by the Wisconsin Prescription Drug Monitoring Program shows the number of opioid medications dispensed between April and June of this year was down by 17.5 million dosages compared to the same time period in 2016 – a 12 percent decrease. Lawmakers have continued to work on bills that expand access to treatment and other programs to help combat addiction.
Affiliate Rick Jensen contributed to this report.