Greenville Co. sues pharmaceutical companies over drug epidemic

Greenville County sues pharmaceutical companies

GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA) - Greenville County filed a lawsuit Monday targeting big pharmaceutical companies in an effort to hold them accountable for their role in the growing drug epidemic.

On Tuesday, the Center for Disease Control released statistics stating that opioid overdoses have increased by 30 percent across the country.

The Greenville County Sheriff's Office responded to three overdose deaths over the weekend. 

It's those tragedies that spurred Greenville County to take action.

"We couldn't be passive in seeing this crisis expand in the community with all the ripple effects it's causing when we had something available that council could do," Greenville County Council Chairman Butch Kirven said. 

Kirven says it's a problem that's adding up for taxpayers. 

"It's a human travesty of enormous proportions," Kirven said. "It's also a very costly one for citizens."

The lawsuit asserts Greenville County employees administered 721 doses of Narcan in 2016 which was up from 709 times in 2015. 

The county is seeking damages for:

(1) costs for providing medical care, additional therapeutic, and prescription drug purchases, and other treatments for patients sufferingfrom opioid-related addiction or disease, including overdoses and deaths; (2) costs for providing treatment, counseling, and rehabilitation services; (3) costs for providing treatment to infants born with opioid-related medical conditions; (4) costs associated with law enforcement and public safety relating to the opioid epidemic; (5) and costs associated with providing care for children whose parents suffer from opioid-related disability or incapacitation.

Greenville County leaders say they're targeting pharmaceutical companies for deceptive marketing. 

"You can't deny the fact that this marketing to doctors and this pushing the over-prescribing of pain medication contributed mightily to the problem we're faced with," said Rich Jones, the CEO of FAVOR Greenville, a drug recovery center. 

They say the money they're suing for could be used to help stop this epidemic. 

"If there's a settlement then Greenville County will use its proceeds to treat and prevent similar types of issues that individuals have going forward," Kirven said.  

Spartanburg County has filed a similar lawsuit and is being represented by the same law firm that's representing Greenville County. The law firm is charging both counties on a contingency fee basis. 

The Greenville County Sheriff's Office says so far in 2018, there have been 22 overdoses with four resulting in death, and deputies have administered Narcan in eight cases. 


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