MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee is the latest city to file a lawsuit in response to the opioid crisis.
The complaint alleges dozens of manufacturers, distributors, and pharmacies engaged in false and misleading practices, resulting in an extraordinary increase in opioid addiction and overdose deaths.
Numbers are still pending, but at this point, the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner's office says there were 327 opioid-related deaths in 2019.
In 2018, there were 305 opioid-related deaths and in 2017 there were 337.
The complaint also states in 2018, Milwaukee County saw nearly 800 opioid-related emergency room visits.
"We want to do what we can to end the crisis, but we also want to seek reimbursement from these companies for the damages we've sustained and the damages we will incur in the future," said Grant Langley, City Attorney for Milwaukee.
On top of claiming lives, Langley says the opioid crisis is impacting the city's bottom line from first responder overtime to Narcan training and treatment for those who became addicted.
"Those who schemed to do this had a pretty good idea of what was going on and they didn't take steps to stop it," said Langley.
The city attorney says whatever compensation comes from this lawsuit it is important that money they recoup goes toward tackling the opioid crisis.
Langley is working with the Napoli Shkolnik law firm. The firm is experienced in opioid litigation and a member of the Executive Committee for plaintiffs in the multidistrict litigation going on in Ohio federal district court.
John Park, senior vice president of communications at Healthcare Distribution Alliance (HDA), wrote the following in a statement:
"The misuse and abuse of prescription opioids is a complex public health challenge that requires a collaborative and systemic response that engages all stakeholders. It’s also critical to understand the role of each stakeholder across the supply chain. Distributors do not conduct research, manufacture, market, or prescribe medications, nor do they influence prescribing patterns, the demand for specific products, or patient-benefit designs. The idea that distributors are responsible for the number of opioid prescriptions written defies common sense and lacks understanding of how the pharmaceutical supply chain actually works and is regulated. Those bringing lawsuits would be better served addressing the root causes, rather than trying to redirect blame through litigation."