Dover City Council announces lawsuit against ‘Big Pharma’

Council President Timothy Slavin

Council President Timothy Slavin

DOVER — Dover City Council on Monday announced a lawsuit against the pharmaceutical industry, alleging it has played a major role in the current opioid epidemic.

Following an executive session, council members approved a resolution to hire legal counsel to sue “Big Pharma.”

“I am just sick and tired of this being considered the new normal, that we live with this opioid addiction crisis as if it just kind of grew naturally,” Council President Tim Slavin said afterward. “It didn’t grow naturally.

“It was by design, and I feel like as a city, we’ve expended a tremendous amount of money policing that with police, with fire, with EMS, but also with a variety of other social services while other services in the city have suffered because all those things cost money.

“I feel like with the opioid crisis we’ve been swimming uphill, and it’s been very, very difficult. So, it’s time to just call them on the carpet and get what we’re deserved, which is to stand up for the taxpayers and get some money back.”

City Council retained Marc J. Bern & Partners, a New York-based firm that has been involved in previous opioid-related suits.

The defendants have not yet been named.

“That’s the specifics of the litigation that our attorneys will sort out,” Councilman Tanner Polce, who came up with the idea for the lawsuit, said.

The cost of the lawsuit was not publicly released, and Mr. Polce said he could not reveal that information. He said the closed-door vote was unanimous.

Opioids, ranging from painkillers to heroin, have ravaged the country in recent years, and President Donald Trump officially declared the opioid epidemic a public health emergency in October.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than 115 Americans die from opioids every day.

“In the late 1990s, pharmaceutical companies reassured the medical community that patients would not become addicted to prescription opioid pain relievers, and healthcare providers began to prescribe them at greater rates,” the institute’s website states. “This subsequently led to widespread diversion and misuse of these medications before it became clear that these medications could indeed be highly addictive.”

While no other municipalities in the First State have filed lawsuits against opioid-related companies, Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn last month announced litigation against manufacturers Purdue Pharma and Endo Pharmaceuticals, distributors McKesson, Cardinal Health, Amerisource Bergen, Anda Pharmaceuticals and H.D. Smith and retailers CVS and Walgreens.

New Castle County last week said it had retained the law firm Motley Rice, which was involved in the record $246 billion tobacco Master Settlement Agreement and other opioid-related litigation.

New York, Philadelphia and Chicago are among the cities taking drug companies to court over the spread of opioids.

According to the state’s lawsuit, more than 50 opioid pills are shipped into Delaware for every resident. Delaware saw 308 people fatally overdose in 2016, per the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services.

“This is a way that the city of Dover can be proactive to one small piece of this giant puzzle,” Mr. Polce said.

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

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