Nueces County, Hospital District file lawsuit related to opioid epidemic

Posted at 9:35 PM, Jul 06, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-06 22:35:59-04

Nueces County and the County’s Hospital District are the latest to go after big pharma. They’re suing dozens of companies over the current opioid epidemic.

The lawsuit alleges these manufacturers and distributors knew that their products were dangerous and highly addictive, but they still conspired to push them onto people. The suit says the opioid crisis has come at a great cost to Nueces County, in lives and dollars. Now, it wants the companies to pay.

The 140-plus page lawsuit names more than forty pharmaceutical companies that are accused of putting "profit over people." The county is seeking damages that it says were caused by their alleged conduct. It claims the companies created "a campaign of misinformation" that persuaded doctors and patients that opioids are safe for long-term use.

"The gist of (the lawsuit) is a lot of false advertisement and a lot of fraud involving the selling of these particular drugs that are very addictive and that information was not provided to the medical community," says Nueces County Attorney Laura Garza Jimenez. 

As a result, the lawsuit says the companies made tens of billions of dollars while leading the U.S. into a national crisis, one that also hits close to home.

According to the suit, Nueces County is at the forefront of the opioid epidemic in Texas. Figures from the Texas State Department of HNealth Services show in 2015, there were 43 opioid-related overdose deaths in the county, the highest per capita rate in Texas.

The lawsuit also says Nueces County is consistently among the top five in the state for newborns hospitalized with opioid withdrawal. The financial burden of this epidemic is "overwhelming," according to the county and the hospital district. This legal action aims to have the pharmaceutical companies cover the costs.

Nueces County Judge Loyd eal says in a statement, "It is unfortunate that so many Nueces County citizens have suffered and fallen victim to opioid abuse over the past years at the hands of certain unscrupulous drug companies. This is an attempt to redress the wrongs and the burden to the Nueces County taxpayers over these years."
For now, it’s unclear exactly how much money the county is seeking. The lawsuit states that damages are expected to be more than $1 million, but a jury would decide the final amount.