by John Holler, Correspondent-
There is little in the way of denying that the crisis of addiction and death surrounding the abuse of opioid drugs and painkillers has reached an epidemic level throughout the United States. At the Dec. 19 meeting of the Wright County Board of Commissioners, County Attorney Tom Kelly and Assistant County Attorney Brian Asleson urged the board to do its part to fight back. Both urged the board to join a nationwide civil litigation against opioid manufacturers and distributors looking to stop the abuses of the law that they have taken in making it easy (and profitable) to dispense opioid prescriptions. In September, a pair of law firms approached Wright County about joining in the lawsuit. Initially, the county attorney’s office was hesitant to join in, but more information was presented that changed their minds. “As we’ve gone through the process, I think Tom and I both started with a certain amount of skepticism and a lot of questions,” Asleson said. “But, the more we’ve heard, the more we believe this is a worthwhile effort. Some of the stated goals of the litigation are to make things better going forward. It’s not necessarily all about recovering dollars, but trying to make for a better distribution system going forward and minimizing the problem that is out there.” There is no significant cost for the county, because the lawyers in charge of the suit are taking on the case on a contingency basis – no up-front costs to the county and a percentage of the potential award if the lawsuit is victorious. The only cost to the county would be staff time collecting data to be used in the lawsuit. Unlike a class action suit that clumps litigants from throughout the country under one umbrella, the lawsuits being filed are on behalf of individual counties. Kelly said the goal isn’t to make a lot of money in a jury award, but rather to clean up a system that has run amok. The numbers are staggering and the lawsuits are gaining national attention for the significant change they could generate if Big Pharma has to answer to their practices in court.