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New Hanover County sues opioid manufacturers, distributors

New Hanover County sues opioid manufacturers, distributors
Updated: Dec. 15, 2017 at 4:00 PM EST
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NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WECT) - New Hanover County has moved ahead in its efforts to resolve the area's opioid crisis through the legal system.

Thursday, the county filed a federal lawsuit against several drug manufacturers and distributors. The suit calls for unspecified damages, including punitive damages, to help cover the costs already accumulated with responding to the opioid epidemic in our region.

As stated in the suit, New Hanover County, in particular, has experienced a 1,500% increase in opioid-related deaths since 1999. The suit states in 2015, there were an estimated 114 opioid prescriptions ordered per 100 residents in the county.

The manufacturers aggressively pushed highly addictive, dangerous opioids, falsely representing to
doctors that patients would only rarely succumb to drug addiction. These pharmaceutical
companies aggressively advertised to and persuaded doctors to prescribe highly addictive,
dangerous opioids and turned patients into drug addicts for their own corporate profit. Such actions
were intentional and/or unlawful.

"The residents of New Hanover County are bearing the burden of the cost of the epidemic, as the costs of treatment for addiction, education and law enforcement continue to rise," said New Hanover County Board of Commissioners Chairman Woody White. "This suit accomplish two things: require the responsible parties to pay our taxpayers for the monetary damages caused, and to force them to follow federal law so we can stem the tide of this horrible epidemic, and help save lives."

Last month, both the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners and Wilmington City Council approved separate resolutions calling for a legal effort to battle the current situation.

According to a 2016 study conducted by Castlight Health, Wilmington was leading the nation in opioid abuse rate. Three other North Carolina cities — Hickory, Jacksonville, and Fayetteville — made the study's top 25.

The report analyzed anonymous health data from nearly a million people covered by employer-based insurance.

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