The legal opioid epidemic is devastating many economies throughout the United States. In particular the South Florida city of Delray Beach.
Delray Beach Mayor Cary Glickstein has solicited one of the country’s largest class-action law firms to investigate potential claims the city could make against them.
The San Diego-based law firm Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd wrote a memo to city commissioners, saying it could use Florida’s consumer protection laws to argue drug manufacturers misled the public and omitted facts through their marketing.
It also argues it could go after drug wholesalers for failing to report suspicious orders of opioids, as required by federal law.
Glickstein has watched lawsuits “percolate” across the country and thinks now is the time to consider seeking damages, he told commissioners during a recent workshop.
In terms of damages, he cited the approximately $2,000 the city spends per overdose on personnel, equipment and medications, such as the overdose-reversal drug naloxone, more commonly known by the brand name Narcan.
“It’s part of just turning the screws and doing what we can to not see the next generation of addicts,” Glickstein said at the workshop.
Commissioners plan to listen to a presentation outlining potential claims from Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd, whose attorneys helped to secure a $7 billion settlement against Enron in 2008. The city has not yet confirmed a date for the presentation.
If the city chooses to move forward, it would be filed as single-plaintiff lawsuit, Glickstein said.
Communities in Illinois, New York and West Virginia have filed such lawsuits this year against drug manufacturers and wholesalers.
Among the communities that have won damages against drug manufacturers under similar circumstances:
— Kentucky received a $24 million settlement in 2015 from drug manufacturer Purdue in a lawsuit over misleading the public about the addiction rates tied to OxyContin.
— West Virginia received $16 million in 2016 to resolve allegations against a drug wholesaler that violated consumer protection and antitrust laws.
— New Hampshire received $2.9 million from a specialty pharmaceutical company in a lawsuit arguing it violated the state’s consumer protection laws.
In Palm Beach County, opioid overdose deaths more than tripled in the past five years, going from 143 in 2012 to 569 in 2016.
In Delray Beach, opioid-fueled overdoses have increased month over month since January totaling 314 — including 32 deaths, according to police records. Delray Beach Police responded to 88 overdoses in May, the latest data available.
“The issue is addiction,” Glickstein said. “If you don’t have addiction, you don’t have people selling drugs, you don’t have sober homes you don’t have insurance fraud, you don’t have patient brokering.”
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