Genesee County files lawsuit against opioid companies - WNEM TV 5

Genesee County files lawsuit against opioid companies

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(Source: WNEM) (Source: WNEM)

The battle to fight the opioid epidemic is ongoing.

People in Genesee County are taking their mission straight to one of the biggest suppliers.

A new lawsuit looks to hold pharmaceutical companies responsible for the damage caused by the addictive drugs.

There are one and a half times more prescriptions for opioids in Genesee County than there are people.

"There literally is nobody who has not been touched by this opioid epidemic," said Mark Young, chairman for the Genesee County Board of Commissioners.

The county commissioners voted unanimously to hire a law firm to take legal action against the companies who make opioids.

"There's some comparisons you can do if you look at lawsuits on state levels against the tobacco industry," Young said.

The complaint is not written yet, so the exact nature of the lawsuit is not decided.

Young said he wants answers and transparency.

"Was this attempted to be advertised or marketed inappropriately? If it was, let's make sure that those problems don't happen again," Young said.

Wayne and Oakland County recently filed similar lawsuits.

Young said he believes many counties are going to take the legal battle to the manufacturers.

"This is just the tip of the iceberg," Young said.

The next step is for the law firm to create the formal complaint.

Katie Baxter treats patients addicted to opioids every day at Genesee Health System.

Baxter said while there is a clear over prescription problem, she does believe most doctors are just trying to do right by their patients.

"I think it is a problem. I want to be very, I want to be careful though and relay that not all prescribes are irresponsible when prescribing things," Baxter said.

No matter how helpful the doctors are trying to be, the Genesee County Board of Commissioners are saying there is a drug crisis in the county.

Baxter said doctors need to be better educated on both opioids and the alternatives that are available.

"I think sometimes it's difficult for physicians and prescribers. When people present a pain issue the doctor wants to give them relief. And sometimes they'll make the decision to provide them with opioids when perhaps there might have been better options," Baxter said.

Baxter said often times patients starts their addiction innocently, like getting treatment for an injury.

For some, the drug spirals out of control and becomes a gateway to street drugs like heroin.

Baxter hopes this lawsuit can shine some much needed attention to this deadly epidemic.

"I think a lot of doctors are becoming more aware of this issue, more conscientious about how they treat patients that present pain issues," Baxter said.

The Genesee County Board of Commissioners are hosting a town hall meeting on the opioid crisis on Wednesday at the Genesee County Administration Building at 5:30 p.m.

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