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Placer County takes offensive in opioid drug war

Lawsuit will attempt to recoup more than $1M in costs
By: Gus Thomson, Reporter/Columnist
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Courtesy map

These counties in the lighter areas are part of a lawsuit taking on major pharmaceutical companies over increased opioid use. Multiple deaths have been attributed to opioid ODs in Placer County.

 

A national law firm known for bringing some of the biggest corporations to their knees in court has a new client - Placer County.

Baron & Budd, a firm that has gone to court against BP for the Deepwater Horizon disaster and represented victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, will be pursuing a lawsuit on behalf of Placer County - plus more than 300 other communities and counties across the country against some of the nation’s largest drug manufacturers and distributors.

The county has joined a growing legion of local government seeking compensation in costs to deal with a opioid addiction crisis that they’re blaming on pharmaceutical companies.

The lawsuit on behalf of Placer County and 29 other counties that are part of the California Opioid Consortium was filed Tuesday in federal court in California but is expected to be transferred to a broad-ranging class-action suit connecting as many as 500 governments around the country.

Upfront costs to Placer County are minimal for the court action. At the Board of Supervisors April 10 meeting, supervisors voted in favor of retaining Baron & Budd on a contingency basis. A statement from Placer County released after the lawsuit was filed said that expenses that could be claimed from the corporations if the lawsuit is a success are expected to be “well in excess of $1 million.”

Some of the bigger corporate players named as defendants in the lawsuit include drug distributors McKesson and Cardinal Health and drug makers Teva and Allegan. Janssen Pharmaceuticals, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, is also a defendant. The opioid pipeline from manufacturers includes well-known and advertised brand names like OxyContin, Percodan and Norco.

Sacramento,  El dorado and Yuba counties are also part of the consolidated lawsuit with Placer.

“These counties are standing up for their communities and I am proud to be a part of their action,” Baron and Budd shareholder John Fiske said.

The lawsuit claims that many of the nation’s largest drug manufacturers misinformed doctors about the addictiveness of opioids. It also alleges that the companies failed to monitor, identify and report “suspicious” opioid shipments to pharmacies, in violation of the federal Controlled Substances Act.

There were 14 deaths in Placer County in 2016 attributed to opioid overdoses. The rate of hospitalizations and emergency department visits attributed to opioids were higher than the state average.

“The opioid epidemic is a national crisis and it is a serious concern in Placer County,” Board of Supervisor Chairman Jim Holmes said. “Taking action to stop the companies responsible for it is the right thing to do for the health and safety of our residents and for our taxpayers.”