Editorial: Carroll on right track pursuing lawsuit against Big Pharma

Inevitably, it seems, Carroll County government will become the latest among jurisdictions across the country to file a lawsuit against opioid manufacturers in an attempt to recoup money that has been spent on fighting the crisis and perhaps fund future initiatives to continue that fight.

Last Thursday, the Board of County Commissioners gave the county attorney its blessing to determine whether it would be best to join approximately 600 other local government cases being heard in federal court by a single judge in Ohio, or what seems to be the favored option by the commissioners, filing litigation in state court.


“You’ll get your case heard, but by a local judge as opposed to a multidistrict judge in Ohio,” County Attorney Tim Burke explained.

We will leave it up to the folks with law degrees to determine the best course of action for Carroll County, but are glad to see the county commissioners now seem to be on the same page when it comes to taking legal action against Big Pharma and its role in the opioid crisis.

It was a little less than a year ago that the commissioners initially discussed in public session the possibility of joining other jurisdictions in filing a suit, but seemed to struggle with whether doing so was purely opportunistic as a way to ensure Carroll received a piece of whatever pie might be reached, or if they truly believed opioid manufacturers and distributors were complicit in driving the crisis to today’s levels.

Based on the statements made last week, it seems the commissioners do, in fact, believe pharmaceutical companies played a significant role and should be held accountable.

“The manufacturers — when they first put this out — said, ‘if you use this in the way it’s prescribed, it’s not an addictive substance.’ That was incorrect information. The information put out was wrong,” Commissioner Dennis Frazier, R-District 3, explained Thursday. “People got the pills from the doctors and then they became addicted. If the information that came out was correct in the first place, I wouldn’t be in favor of doing this litigation … but it wasn’t.”

That is the cornerstone of any potential litigation against these companies.

Research, however, does seem to indicate a marketing push of painkilling opioid drugs that downplayed their addictiveness, leading to doctors overprescribing – some say even when they knew these prescriptions were likely being abused – and fooling patients into thinking they were safe. These marketing practices, prescriptions and addiction all seem to follow the same trends.

Overprescription led to excess drugs and greater access by those without prescriptions, and when prescription drugs could no longer be acquired or users needed a greater high, they turned to more powerful street drugs. That, in turn, has led to the proliferation of opioid synthetics like fentanyl, which is far more powerful than heroin or morphine, and is incredibly deadly. Last year, 71 deaths were recorded by Carroll law enforcement agencies, up from 49 in 2017, with fentanyl playing a role in approximately 70 percent of those deaths the last two years.

Ultimately, it has fallen on federal, state and local governments to help address the crisis through a variety of programs, sometimes at great expense. That is the rationale for any legal action. Would we be in this crisis if not for the deceitful practices of greedy pharmaceutical companies? Ultimately, that will be up for a judge to determine but the evidence seems to be mounting against them, as do the number of lawsuits – including one soon to be filed by Carroll County.