While we do not know what eventually will become of it, but Grady County’s decision to join the legal actions against opioid makers will bear watching, and not just from a local perspective but from a national one.
The lawsuit, filed in the Northern District of Ohio U.S. district court, alleges that makers of prescription opioids “grossly misrepresented the risks of long-term use” for those using those drugs to combat chronic pain and that distributors “failed to properly monitor suspicious orders” and those actions “contributed to the current opioid epidemic.”
The National Institute on Drug Abuse states that more than 130 people die each day in the U.S. after overdosing on opioids. Those opioids include prescription pain medication, heroin and fentanyl. The Centers for Disease Control says the economic burden of opioid addiction and abuse is $78.5 billion annually.
Georgia is 27th in the number of opioid overdose deaths per 100,000 people, at 9.7, per 2017 figures, or a total of 1,014 people. West Virginia had 49.6 opioid-related deaths per 100,000. Georgia, however, had a higher-than-average rate of opioid prescriptions, with 70.9 for every 100 people, compared to a national average of 58.7 per 100.
Even on the official White House website, the opioid crisis is front and center. There are five tabs at the top of the page — one of them is dedicated solely to the opioid crisis. In 2016, nearly 64,000 Americans died from drug overdoses, and 42,000 of those were the result of opioid overdoses.
The Department of Health and Human Services declared a public health emergency because of the opioid crisis in 2017 and unveiled a five-point strategy to curtail the use and abuse as a result. According to the White House, the number of first-time heroins users fell by more than 50 percent in July 2017.
What happens in a Cleveland federal court room over the next several months and perhaps longer could have a tremendous impact on how communities, large and small, and states answer the opioid problem.