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City may sue opioid makers

The Ironton City Council will discuss a resolution tonight to declare an opioid health crisis in the city and to sue the makers and distributors of the prescription drugs because of the addiction problems and deaths the drugs have caused.

Resolution 18-14, if passed, would declare, “that opiate abuse, addiction, morbidity and mortality is a serious public health crisis in the city of Ironton and is a public nuisance.” As a public nuisance, the city has the right to “suppress and prevent all things detrimental” to welfare of its inhabitants. It adds the city is “determined to take action to abate the public health crisis and hold those who helped to create the crisis responsible.”

The council will vote to retain the services of Greene, Ketchum Farrell, Bailey & Tweel of Huntington, West Virginia, the same firm Lawrence County is using in a similar lawsuit.

Ironton could join a multitude of cities and states that are suing drug manufacturers and distributors.

According to the Associated Press, more than 200 lawsuits against drug companies have been brought by local communities across the country, including those in California, Illinois, Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia.

The lawsuits have been consolidated into what is known as “multidistrict litigation,” an approach taken when lawsuits of a similar nature are filed around the country. One such consolidated case, which includes Portsmouth and Huntington, will be heard in Cleveland.

According to the Associated Press, the lawsuits accuse drug makers of using deceptive marketing to push the sale of opioids and targeted painkillers at vulnerable populations like the elderly and veterans.

Allegations against distributors accuse them of lax product oversight and of ignoring suspicious orders of large quantities of painkillers. Targets of the lawsuits include drug makers such as Allergan, Johnson & Johnson, and Purdue Pharma, and the three large drug distribution companies, Amerisource Bergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson.

Drug distributors and manufacturers named in these and other lawsuits have said they don’t believe litigation is the answer but have pledged to help solve the crisis. In 2016, a record 4,050 Ohioans died of overdoses, a number expected to rise again for 2017.

Also on the agenda is an ordinance about health insurance coverage for full-time city employees with Anthem for one year. There is also a resolution for the Lawrence County CAO to administer grants for the city for no more than $35,000 annually.

The council meets at 6 p.m. on the third floor of the Ironton City Center.