2018-07-11 / Front Page

County joins opioid lawsuit

ROY F. CHALKER JR.

Burke County has joined a national class action law suit against opioid manufacturers.

Since 1999, there has been a 300 percent increase in opioid prescriptions in the United States. Along with the increase in prescriptions, there’s been a deadly uptick in opioid addiction, which is now the leading cause of death in individuals under the age of 50. While many opioid abusers resort to buying illegal substances like heroin, 75 percent of addicts have reported that their first opioid was a prescription drug.

Now, the opioid crisis has led to thousands of lawsuits are being filed against doctors, hospitals, pharmacies and pharmaceutical companies, blaming them for the catastrophic increase in opioid addiction, overdoses and drug-related deaths in America. Many of these lawsuits have been filed by state, counties, municipalities, and Native American tribes, claiming that the opioid epidemic has led to a significant increase in the cost of public health services, higher drug-related crime rates, and other negative effects on their communities.

At a called meeting on June 27, Burke County Commissioners voted unanimously to join approximately 100 other Georgia counties in the effort. The move was encouraged by county attorney Barry Fleming. There will be no cost to the county, other than the possible use of administrative staff to collect data. Augusta attorney Troy Lanier told the panel that his firm would also assign staff to assist.

The county can opt out of the suit at any time if it is determined that too much staff time is being taken, but there would not be another opportunity to participate.

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