Dane County officials want to hold pharmaceutical companies acco - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Dane County officials want to hold pharmaceutical companies accountable for contributing to opioid epidemic

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UPDATE (WKOW) -- The Dane County Board of Supervisors voted Thursday night to move forward with the lawsuit.


MADISON (WKOW) --- Opioid-related deaths have increased dramatically in Dane County. Now, local officials want to hold big pharmaceutical companies accountable.

The Dane County Board of Supervisors are following the path of other Wisconsin counties. They'll vote Thursday whether to allow county attorneys to sue big pharmaceutical companies over the opioid epidemic.

"We have an opioid crisis here in the United States,” said District 1 Supervisor Mary Kolar.

Dane County is not alone in this crisis. The opioid epidemic spans across the country, infiltrating communities and affecting individuals of all ages, race, ethnicity, education, and socioeconomic status.

Kolar alleges unlawful marketing by the manufacturers - which has led to a crisis among county residents.

"They have grossly profiting from the pain and misery and loss of death that is resulted from aggressive marketing of opioids, including Oxycontin.”

The societal costs associated with the opioid epidemic are staggering. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the cost amounts to over $75 billion annually. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that in 2015, 12.5 million 22 people misused prescription opioids, 33,091 people died from overdosing on opioids, and 2 million people 23 had a prescription opioid use disorder.

Here in Dane County, Kolar said the number of opioid-related deaths has increased 130% since 2010.

"And in just one year, 2017, estimated there has been a 50% increase."

The action by county officials is designed to hold pharmaceutical companies accountable.

"One of the reasons for this resolution is that the impact on families and livelihoods and on the taxpayer is most direct in county government," Kolar said.

Kolar believes companies are putting profits over public health -- while the county picks up the tab for opioid-related services.

"Literally billions of dollars resulted in profits the companies have made. While local governments like Dane County are expanding resources to address the results of the over marketing."

Kolar said more than 50 of the state's 72 counties are involved in some effort to sue the big pharmaceutical companies.

“It’s similar to in the past when the big tobacco companies (sic). Again, who gets most impacted? Local governments that have to provide the services to their residents. And so what happens with the tobacco companies is the money went to the state and then it didn’t come to the counties. So with this activity we are saying counties provide the services, we need the resources to be able to provide those resources. And then this extension holding big pharma accountable.”

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