Contra Costa County plans to join cities and counties across the nation that are taking legal action against drug manufacturers and distributors over the opioid epidemic.
The county is among jurisdictions across the nation taking legal action against opiod makers and distributors.
The Board of Supervisors voted in favor Tuesday of launching litigation that aims to force certain drug manufacturers and distributors to reimburse the county for taxpayer funds that already have been spent responding to the epidemic, as well as the local costs of continuing the fight against opiod abuse, including emergency response, prevention, monitoring and treatment.
The claims by the county that distributors have contributed to the problem is disputed by the Healthcare Distribution Alliance (HDA), the national trade association representing distributors, which notes that distributors do not manufacture nor prescribe or drive demand for pharmaceuticals.
“The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is responsible for setting the annual production of controlled substances in the market, approving and regulating the entities allowed to prescribe and handle opioids, and sharing data with entities in the supply chain regarding potential cases of diversion,” the HDA reports.
John Parker, senior vice president at HDA, said in a statement, “The misuse and abuse of prescription opioids is a complex public health challenge that requires a collaborative and systemic response that engages all stakeholders. Given our role, the idea that distributors are responsible for the number of opioid prescriptions written defies common sense and lacks understanding of how the pharmaceutical supply chain actually works and is regulated. Those bringing lawsuits would be better served addressing the root causes, rather than trying to redirect blame through litigation.”
The lawsuit’s expected defendants include Purdue Pharma, Teva Ltd., Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Endo Health Solutions, Inc., Allergan PLC, and Mallinckrodt, as well as the nation’s three largest distributors: Cardinal Health, AmerisourceBergen, and McKesson Corp.
According to the latest data, Contra Costa County experienced 53 deaths due to opiod-related overdoses in 2016, or one death per week, Health Services Director Anna Roth reported. That was a 7-percent increase in the county from 2014.