CLEARFIELD – Clearfield County is going after “Big Pharma” to recoup expenses from the growing opioid epidemic.
At Tuesday’s meeting, the Clearfield County Commissioners voted unanimously to retain D’Amico Law Offices LLC of Pittsburgh to file a lawsuit to recover costs the county has had to shoulder due to the opioid crisis.
Commissioner John Sobel said the county has had to utilize a lot of resources resulting from the growing drug abuse problems.
He said these costs include costs incurred by law enforcement officers and EMTs who respond to incidents involving those using opioids, the district attorney and public defender’s offices for crimes relating to opioid use and the county jail for not only housing the individuals, but also providing treatment for illness relating to opioid abuse.
The county also incurs costs relating to families impacted by opioid use, such as Children, Youth and Family Services.
Sobel said these costs unfortunately fall upon the taxpayers of Clearfield County. He said records show a spike in opioid-related deaths in Clearfield County, and expenses relating to this epidemic has also steadily increased.
Sobel said the lawsuit is specifically against eight pharmaceutical companies, seeking both punitive and compensatory damages.
The lawsuit will also ask the court to prevent the pharmaceutical companies from engaging in the promotion and sales practices, which lead to the opioid crisis.
Attorney Michael D’Amico said there is strong evidence that pharmaceutical companies have ignored tests showing how addictive opioid medications are and that they may have misrepresented the safety of these drugs.
He said the county can file their suit as an individual county, either on the state level or on the local level, but this is something the county can discuss, not that they have agreed to work with his firm on the lawsuit.
Sobel said similar lawsuits have been files in Philadelphia, Allegheny, Erie, Beaver, Westmoreland and Delaware counties, as well as in other states across the country.
He said pharmaceutical companies are experiencing record profits relating to the sale of opioid prescription drugs, while counties such as Clearfield are left dealing with the expenses.
D’Amico said his firm has retained Theron Noble as its local counsel for the count.
Sobel, along with fellow Commissioners Mark McCracken and Tony Scotto all stressed that this suit is in no way directed to the local doctors and medical professionals, but is specifically targeting the large pharmaceutical companies responsible for producing these drugs.