EDITORIAL: Southington considers joining suit against big-pharma

EDITORIAL: Southington considers joining suit against big-pharma


With the state in the grip of an opioid epidemic, Connecticut municipalities, including Southington, are considering a class-action lawsuit against the makers of narcotic painkillers.

“I’m very excited,” Southington Town Council Chairman Michael Riccio said about possibly joining the lawsuit, which Waterbury Mayor Neil O’Leary is attempting to organize. “It’s about time the drug companies start paying for the mess that they have created.” Agreed.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that, since 1999, deaths from prescription opioids — drugs like oxycodone, hydrocodone and methadone — have quadrupled. Meanwhile, the department says the use of heroin — another opioid — is on the rise, as are heroin-related overdose deaths.

According to federal numbers, an average of 142 Americans die every day of drug overdoses.

In Connecticut, opioid abuse claimed the lives of 623 residents last year, and accounted for more than 67 percent of all drug-related deaths, according to data from the chief medical examiner.

Incredibly, from 2012 to 2016, the number of opioid-linked intoxication deaths in the state rose by roughly 254 percent.

Certainly, narcotic painkiller makers hold some culpability when it comes to the opioid problem. Nearly 254 million opioid prescriptions have been issued since 1999 — enough to medicate every U.S. adult around the clock for one month.

Why are so many of these pills even in circulation? Why must they be so potent?

Local municipalities are right to be frustrated.

The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities is helping Mayor O’Leary find co-litigants for the class-action suit. Last month Waterbury retained a New York law firm, Simmons, Hanly, and Conroy, to represent Connecticut “cities and towns for free in a joint-action lawsuit against the pharmaceutical companies responsible for destroying the lives of our residents each and every day,” O’Leary wrote in a memo to CCM towns.

Tolland, Hartford, New Haven, Bristol, Groton, Milford, New London, Portland and Torrington are also considering joining the class-action suit.

Simmons, Hanly, and Conroy represents municipal entities in Illinois, Louisiana, Texas, and eight New York counties in ongoing litigation against pharmaceutical companies and physicians over opioid marketing and prescribing methods.

There is precedent for such lawsuits. In the mid-1990s the attorneys general from 46 states successfully sued the four big tobacco companies, claiming taxpayers shouldn’t be forced to pay for treating smoking-related diseases such as lung cancer, heart disease, emphysema, or low-birth-weight babies.

That lawsuit resulted in tobacco companies repaying states for nearly $250 billion in medical costs.

Now it’s time for big-pharma to face its responsibility.

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