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Leggett Announces County Suit Against 14 Opioid Companies

County Executive Ike Leggett announced yesterday that Montgomery County has filed a suit against companies that produce and distribute opioids, seeking reimbursement for County expenses in responding to the crisis and aiming to stop future deceptive and misleading marketing practices that have contributed to the growing epidemic.

The announcement came during press conference held on Wednesday, Feb. 7.

The companies named in the suit, which was filed in Federal District Court, include: Purdue Pharma L.P. of Stamford, CT; Cephalon, Inc. of Frazer, PA; Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. of Israel; Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc. of North Wales, PA; Endo International PLC of Ireland; Endo Health Solutions Inc. of Malvern, PA; Endo Pharmaceuticals Inc. of Malvern, PA; Jansen Pharmaceuticals, Inc. of Raritan, NJ; Insys Therapeutics, Inc. of Chandler, AZ: Mallinckrodt PLC of the United Kingdom; Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals of St. Louis, MO; AmerisourceBergen Corporation of Chesterbrook, PA; Cardinal Health, Inc. of Dublin, OH; and McKesson Corporation of San Francisco, CA.

“The Opioid crisis is wreaking severe damage on individuals and communities throughout our great nation – and Montgomery County is not immune,” said County Executive Ike Leggett. “Just ask the first-responders in our Fire & Rescue Service and our Police. Ask our front-line personnel in Health & Human Services. We are talking about addiction, death, broken lives, and broken families.”

“It is critical that we hold responsible those whose corporate actions have contributed to this crisis – for what has happened in the past, what is happening in the present and what we ought to stop from happening in the future,” said Leggett.

No neighborhood or area is immune, and Germantown has seen an increase in opioid-related problems, even as state and local elected leaders continue to discuss ways to combat the growing problem.

In the Germantown area calls for overdoses have increased since the first of the year, according to Montgomery County Fire Rescue Service run data obtained from DataMontgomery.com. While the data does not show if these overdose calls were related to specifically to opioids or patients making mistakes in dosage, the trend is alarming as two Germantown fire stations have already responded to more overdose calls in the first six months of 2017 than in the first six months of 2016.

According to DataMontgomery.com, in all of 2016 MCFRS responded to 1,098 overdose calls countywide. In the 2017, MCFRS has already responded to 1,310 calls for overdoses countywide.

At the local level, Germantown Pulse looked at calls from Kingsview Fire Station 22, Germantown Volunteer Fire Station 29, Milestone Fire Station 34, and Clarksburg Fire Station 35. Those four fire stations responded to 133 overdose calls in 2015 and 134 overdose calls in 2016. In January 2018, Germantown area fire stations responded to 14 overdose calls, that is one overdose call every other day.

During 2017, MCFRS in the Germantown area has responded to 169 overdose calls. That is one overdose call every 2.2 days in 2017.

It is important to remember that the statistics from DataMontgomery.com do not get into specifics of which type of drug was overdosed or if the overdose was fatal. The run data simply state the nature of the call. It also does not include patients who may have been driven to local emergency rooms for treatment of an overdose.

Leggett was joined at the news conference by Bethesda resident Helen Najar, who lost her daughter Kelly O’Connor to a 2016 overdose, as well as by other families affected by the crisis.

Back in July 2017, the members of the Montgomery County Council discussed the issue at the regular meeting of the Council’s Health and Human Services Committee.

The Committee received a report from the County’s Office of Legislative Oversight outlining what legislative options County officials might take to combat the opioid problem in Montgomery County.

In the memo accompanying the report, Timothy L. Firestine, the County’s Chief Administrative Officer wrote, “We are particularly concerned with both the dramatic increase in overdose deaths and by the drugs used in those deaths. In reviewing prescription opioids, the number of deaths has increased by 3 percent between 2014 and 2016 (from 23 to 26); however, within that number, deaths from oxycodone overdose doubled from 8 to 16 in the past year in Montgomery County alone. Still more alarming is the fact that overdose deaths due to fentanyl rose from 8 in 2014 to 43 in 2016, an increase of more than 500 percent, while in the same period heroin-related deaths rose by 45 percent.”

The memo went on to say, “Montgomery County Government, our providers, concerned citizens, and families who have lost loved ones to addiction have not been idle in attacking opiates as the deadliest drug of choice or as the underlying addiction that drives drug abuse. For example, as part of the County's prevention plan in past years, we provided education and information to prescribing physicians in the County. Though efforts did not have the level of impact we desired on prescribing practices, we have continued our efforts to include education and public awareness, interdiction and law enforcement, drug take-back programs, and treatment.”

The lawsuit in being brought on a contingency basis on the County’s behalf by the firm of Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd LLP.

Photos courtesy Montgomery County.

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