Lawfirm explains opioid suit

By Nikki Blankenship - [email protected]

The City of Portsmouth, Scioto County and the national law firm of Baron & Budd; the law firm of Greene, Ketchum, Farrell, Bailey & Tweel LLP; and the law firm of Levin Papantonio have filed the anticipated law suit against pharmaceutical distributors for their role in creating the opioid epidemic.

“In the suit, the City of Portsmouth alleges that three of the largest pharmaceutical distributors in the U.S. – Cardinal Health, AmerisourceBergen, and McKesson Corp. – each played a role in creating a public nuisance by failing to regulate orders of prescription opiates. The case was filed Wednesday, August 16, in federal district court in the Southern District of Ohio,” a press release from Baron and Bud stated.

Since July, Baron and Budd have also filed similar lawsuits for Jackson, Ross, Vinton, Belmont Clermont and Brown counties.

“We represent close to 70 counties right now in what I describe as the epicenter of the opioid epidemic, and those are in West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, and Southern Illinois,” Burton LeBlanc one of the lead attorneys on the case from Baron & Budd, stated Friday. “In addition, we filed for the City of Cincinnati, the City of Birmingham, Ala., and we’re filing for Louisville, Ky., on Monday.”

LeBlanc added that the firm got started in the opioid battle in West Virginia and has been pretty active in the fight since. The lawsuits are based upon the idea that opioid distributors have created a public nuisance in these communities and should be responsible for paying for the associated costs.

“We consider the wholesale distributors and their conduct as violating the controlled substances act has created a public nuisance in your community, and that public nuisance is ongoing” LeBlanc told the Daily Times. “We’re asking that they abate the public nuisance, and by abating the public nuisance I mean that they, the source of the problem, not the tax payers, should be paying for the expenses that are associated with draining community resources – EMS services, rehabilitation services, drug courts, education, medical and the like. That’s the nucleus of our claim.”

In order to prove the cost of the nuisance upon the community, LeBlanc explained that they will include the testimony of expert witnesses that range from community leaders in Portsmouth and Scioto County to experts who have completed research studies from universities such as John Hopkins University. LeBlanc also explained that part of the process will be determining the amount of opioids that have been distributed into the area.

“We expect that the findings are going to be off the charts, as we have seen in West Virginia,” LeBlanc commented.

For more than a decade, leaders in fighting the opiate problem have cited increased assess to prescription pain medications as a cause for the epidemic.

As the amount of drugs being pumped into the community by pharmaceutical companies, distributors and pill mills increase, opiate abuse/dependency and overdose death increased correspondingly. In 2010, Lisa Roberts with the Portsmouth City Health Department reported 9.7 million doses of prescription opiate medication such as Percoset and OxyContin were dispensed in Scioto County that year.

That is the equivalent of 123 doses for every man, woman and child that was living in the County. This was the peak of prescription medication’s reign over the epidemic as heroin moved into the region.

LeBlanc explained that after “some legal wrangling,” the firm will move into the discovery portion of the suit, which is when they will be gathering much of the data including opioid distribution figures. Then, they will head to trial.

By Nikki Blankenship

[email protected]

Reach Nikki Blankenship at 740-353-3101 ext. 1931.

Reach Nikki Blankenship at 740-353-3101 ext. 1931.