Schenectady County Legislature to Consider Resolution to File Lawsuit against Manufacturers of Prescription Opiates

The Schenectady County Legislature will consider a resolution at their March 16, 2017 meeting to authorize the filing of a lawsuit against various manufacturers of legal prescription opiates alleging deceptive practices that have helped create the current opiate crisis.  The resolution was voted out of committee on Monday, March 6, 2017.

“Schenectady County has invested significant resources to combat the opioid epidemic that is occurring here in our community as well as across the country,” said Anthony Jasenski, Chair of the Schenectady County Legislature.  “Last year Schenectady County created a multi-pronged approach to deal with drugs in our community by creating a community coalition and the creation and expansion of the Sheriff’s County-Wide Drug Unit, but these efforts will only go so far in helping to stop the spread of this addiction.  Our action today is an attempt by Schenectady County to force these opioid manufacturers to change their behavior and be held accountable for contributing to this epidemic.”

Nearly 19,000 people lost their lives due to opioid overdoses in 2014, a quadrupling of these deaths in just 15 years.  According to the New York State Department of Health, Schenectady County averaged eleven overdose deaths per year from 2009 to 2013, fifty-five deaths over a five year period.  In 2014, there were 529 opioid-related inpatient hospital admissions in Schenectady County, an increase of 20.8 percent over 2010. 

The cost of this crisis to Schenectady County residents is significant.  Criminal acts are often committed to obtain additional opioids with many searching out heroin as a cheaper alternative.  Medicaid costs increase as a result of the over-prescription of opioid medication, with Schenectady County spending more than $30 million each year for the County’s share of Medicaid.  Inpatient hospital admissions and admissions to drug treatment programs are also costs to County taxpayers. 

The proposed lawsuit is an effort by Schenectady County to force these opioid manufacturers to change their behavior and be held accountable for it, and to reimburse Schenectady County for the additional costs imposed upon it for medical care, law enforcement and incarceration as a direct and proximate cause of the actions of the opioid manufacturers. 

Schenectady County’s action would mirror other lawsuits filed by Broome, Erie and Suffolk Counties alleging that drug makers urged physicians to prescribe these drugs beyond their traditional and appropriate use to treat extreme conditions such as acute pain after injury or surgery, or cancer pain.  While understating the high risk of addiction, the suits allege that driven by profits, the drug companies promoted the prescriptions of opioids for long term pain management, and in so doing created the prescription opioid crisis.  While opioids are considered an appropriate treatment for certain types of short-term pain and for palliative end-of-life care, drug companies have manufactured, promoted and marketed opioids as long-term pain relievers by misrepresenting or omitting key information about the appropriate uses, risks, and safety of the drugs.

In the Broome County litigation, the Plaintiffs contend that Defendants’ misrepresentations were aimed at doctors, patients and payors, and that each of these misrepresentation and deceptions in promoting the long-term use of opioids to treat chronic pain was Defendants’ collective effort to hide from the medical community that there exist, no adequate and well-controlled studies of opioid use longer than 12 weeks.

There would be no up-front costs for Schenectady County in pursuing this action.  Any and all fees and costs would come solely from any monetary award made from either a settlement or from a positive verdict.

The vote to move forward with the legal action will occur at the Legislature’s Regular Meeting on Thursday, March 16, 2017 at 7:00PM (this meeting was rescheduled from March 14th due to severe winter weather).

 


 

County Calendar

Previous Articles