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City of Milwaukee considers legal action against big pharmaceutical companies

Posted at 6:08 PM, Jul 30, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-31 17:00:46-04

MILWAUKEE — MILWAUKEE -- The Milwaukee Common Council will actively search for legal counsel as they pursue legal action against pharmaceutical companies who manufacture opioids.

Wisconsin is one of 48 states who are going after Big Pharma for manufacturing opioids. During today's Common Council meeting, Ald. Michael Murphy says this weekend's 14 overdoses are proof the pharmaceutical companies need to be held responsible.

"One individual had a prescription filled in July with 131 pills," Murphy said. "When found, they only had one pill left."

Murphy authored a resolution to hire outside legal counsel to investigate possible solutions including litigation to the opioid epidemic. The legal counsel will work in collaboration with the state during class action lawsuits.

"This was a legal product sold by Big Pharma as a non-addictive drug in many cases," Murphy said. "When we know most people got hooked on a legal narcotic through false representation, they have some liability. I think it's only fair the city recovers some of that cost we're spending so much money on right now."

According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, the use of prescription opioids has dramatically increased in the last 50 plus years. In the 1960s, 80 percent of opioid abuse started with heroin. Over time, the rate of first-time heroin use dropped to under 30 percent by the 2000s.

The first-time opioid abuse in prescriptions skyrocketed. In the 1960s, it was under 20 percent but jumped to roughly 75 percent in the 2000s.

"We feel strongly they bear a great deal of responsibility for getting citizens addicted to a legal narcotic by false representation of their drug and effects," Murphy said. "I think there are some substantial dollars that could be recovered and hopefully there will e some sort of settlement."

In May, Attorney General Josh Kaul sued Oxycontin-maker, Purdue Pharma, over marketing practices. He claims the company falsely advertised and misled the public about the dangers of the drug. The suit says 7,500 Wisconsin residents died from opioid overdoses between 2000 and 2017.

Murphy says legal counsel should be picked by September and he expects a decision or settlement by the end of the year.

"The cost to the taxpayers is in police time, paramedics time, time the county has to spend on this," Murphy said. "Let alone the cost of Narcan and Naloxone which brings people to life."

Murphy says any money won in a settlement would go toward expanding treatment options, prevention and education.