CAIRO — The Grady County Board of Commissioners voted to forge ahead with an ongoing lawsuit that seeks damages from drug manufacturers for their role in the nation's opioid epidemic.
The lawsuit, actually a collection of litigation which have been consolidated into a unified case in the federal Northern District of Ohio, accuses drug manufacturers of marketing opioids to doctors and the public without fully informing patients of their addictiveness.
Grady County signed onto the lawsuit as a plaintiff last year, but county attorney Gabe Ridley told the commissioners last week that they needed to take action if they wanted to continue moving forward.
During the suit's discovery phase, the plaintiffs sought access to a database of controlled substance transactions maintained by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration.The Department of Justice objected to this request out of concerns for confidentiality, but a compromise was reached though a protective order where the plaintiffs could access the data in a limited capacity.
In order to continue with the lawsuit, the county would have to agree to abide by the order.
"Basically the choice before the board was to agree to that protective order or possibly not continue the case as a plaintiff," Ridley said.
The commissioners unanimously voted to agree to the court order and continue with the litigation.
Agreeing to the court order presents the risk of bearing responsibility for any violations.
Penalties for violations could include paying attorney's fees, but Ridley said the risk of running afoul of the court order is low.
"I don't even see any of that information coming into the possession of the county," Ridley said. "It's going to be the main attorneys that are handling the case and those experts that the attorneys have hired."
On average, 130 Americans die from opioid overdoses every day, many of which are prescribed by a doctor, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Opioids are often prescribed following surgery, injury, or health conditions such as cancer to treat moderate-to-severe pain, according to CDC.
Once prescribed, opioids can be highly addictive. CDC reports that as many as one in four patients receiving long-term opioid therapy in a primary care setting struggles with opioid addiction.