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

Dane County announces plans to sue pharmaceutical companies

Posted: Updated:

DANE COUNTY (WKOW) -- Dane County plans to file a federal lawsuit against pharmaceutical companies and distributors to recover costs associated with the opioid crisis.

During a Monday morning news conference, Dane County Executive Joe Parisi said the federal lawsuit likely will be filed within the next few months.

The county has hired Barron and Bud as its lead attorney, the same firm representing Milwaukee County and nearly 200 municipalities nationwide.

The rate of prescription opioid deaths has doubled in Dane County since 2000 and the rate of heroin deaths has tripled, Parisi said.

"The opioid epidemic has strained our resources and cost local communities millions of dollars," Parisi said.

Parisi said the county spends $230,000 per year in the DA's office to keep up with what he called "the crush of opioid cases."

Details will be worked out in the next few months regarding either joining other municipalities or going it alone. 

The attorneys also will determine an amount the the county will see in the civil suit, which could be significant.

"It's a lot of money," Parisi said.

In February, the Dane County Board of Supervisors voted to allow county attorneys to proceed with a lawsuit.

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

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.”

Watch the April 9, 2018 news conference

. or below:

Powered by Frankly