Mayor asks Commission to support lawsuits against pharmaceuticals

Doctors prescribe the addictive drugs.

Pharmacies sell them.

The patient follows the doctor’s orders, faithfully taking the drugs as prescribed—once or twice daily, depending on the recommended dosage, believing all the while that because the doctor prescribed it and the pharmacist recommended it, they are taking a pill that is good for their health—and then, before they realize it, they have become addicted.

And thus the perfect storm is created: a nationwide opioid epidemic of massive, and often, deadly, proportions.

According to a 2015 National Drug Treatment Assessment summary published by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), “overdose deaths, particularly from prescription drugs and heroin, have reached epidemic levels.”

The question is, which came first, the chicken or the egg? Who is to blame? Is it the doctors for prescribing the addictive drugs or the pharmaceutical companies for selling them?

Or is it the patients themselves for agreeing to take the drugs, knowing there is a high risk for addiction?

Another question that arises is, how much information about the drugs’ addictive side effects are physicians and pharmaceutical companies disclosing to the public?

State attorneys and local East Tennessee prosecutors are saying the blame lies primarily on the pharmaceutical companies for supplying the drugs in the first place, and it will be the task of skillful lawyers to prove how pharmaceuticals are to blame for causing this widespread epidemic.

Pharmaceutical companies, on the other hand, argue the blame lies on the physicians who are often called out for over-prescribing these drugs.

During the Anderson County Commission meeting Monday, county officials weighed in on the opioid debate with commission voting unanimously to approve a motion of support for an opioid lawsuit filing that was recently initiated by three East Tennessee district attorneys against opioid manufacturers Mallinckrodt, Endo, and Purdue Pharma.

The filing was announced earlier this month and is aimed at placing accountability for causing the opioid epidemic on the pharmaceutical companies that manufacture and supply the opiates.

The lawsuit involves the deceptive marketing practices the Big Pharma industries employ to sell the opiates they supply.

Anderson County Mayor Terry Frank presented the request to county commission, asking for support of the three district attorneys and nine counties who have filed suit against the pharmaceuticals. She also requested that commission authorize the drafting of a letter to the state attorney general to include Anderson County on the list of counties asking to review the lawsuit filed by Ohio Attorney Gen. Mike DeWine.

The lawsuit was filed in Ross County, Ohio, in May by DeWine accusing Big Pharma companies Purdue Pharma, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Allergan, Cephalon and Endo of downplaying the risks associated opiates — drugs.

Frank urged commissioners to join the efforts other states are makng to investigate Big Pharma’s “deceptive marketing” strategies and additionally requested that commission make a motion to support researching “the most cost effective method to support the efforts of the nine counties, that is, the possible filing of an amicus brief, joining the suit.”

Said Frank, “I believe that the opioid epidemic is one that continues to need our closest attention and best efforts. I would hope that in Tennessee, that the pharmacy industry would set a different example. I have hoped that they would take the lead on helping local communities and our state at large in tackling the consequences of opiate use. I continue to hold out hope that I will turn on the television and see a combined, large-scale effort by ‘Big Pharma’ to propose a way to solve the problems of addiction in our community. Partnership with ‘Big Pharma’ would be the best path forward.”

According to a 2016 Allies for Substance Abuse Prevention (ASAP) community assessment report, Anderson County ranks 19th out of 95 counties in Tennessee for opioid prescription rate per capita.

The impact of the “local costs of opioid addiction” on the county can be seen in the county’s annual expenditures to public safety “as well as our current debt service for the construction of a new detention facility,” Frank said, “The growth in our judicial system is predominantly the result of the rapid growth in addiction.”

Commission voted unanimously to approve all three requests from Frank regarding the opioid epidemic.