PITTSBURGH, Pa. (KDKA) – Local leaders call it a public health crisis. The opioid epidemic has hit the area hard.
On Tuesday, the City of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County filed a lawsuit in an effort to go after those they say are responsible.
It was late last year in Downtown Pittsburgh on the street in front of a motel. A young woman overdosed. Paramedics arrived and used Narcan, a medicine that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, and saved her life.
Experts say most heroin addicts start with opioids. Attorneys say it is time to go after the opioid manufacturers. On Tuesday, the County and city went after those companies they say have cost taxpayers millions.
“Things like from out jail, our department of human services, EMS, 911, (the) medical examiner’s office, all those places expend money as a result of the abuse of these drugs and the overdoses from these drugs,” Allegheny County Solicitor Andy Szefi said.
The city and county sued eight pharmaceutical companies, the biggest in the opioid business, bringing in outside out-of-state council with experience in tobacco lawsuits to take on those companies.
“We’d like to be recouped for the taxpayer dollars that have been expended, No. 1, and we’d also like to have a hand in changing the way they do business so that we don’t have the continues flood of prescriptions for diseases and ailments that don’t really call for opioid prescriptions at all.”
There have been more than 3,500 opioid-related deaths in the county since 2008. The county and city hope the litigation sends a message.
A number of other states, including West Virginia, have filed similar litigation against pharmaceutical companies.
“We haven’t ever seen anything like this crisis, here,” Szefi said.