Habersham County joins in suit agains opioid manufactures

Habersham County has joined a growing number of counties that are suing opioid manufacturers and distributors over the opioid epidemic. Late last week, the county filed a lawsuit in federal court against more than 20 companies.

The suit alleges the defendants misrepresented the addictive risks of opioids and fraudulently marketed opioids as a treatment for chronic pain; and suggests that the defendants did not follow federal laws regarding the reporting of excessive opioid sales in certain areas.

Athens law firm Blasingame, Burch, Garrard & Ashley (BBGA) is representing Habersham County, along with attorney Dennis Cathey of Cathey & Strain, LLC, in Cornelia, and Jonathan Pope of Hasty Pope law firm in Canton.

The lawsuit targets manufacturers including Purdue Pharma, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, Cephalon, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Endo Health Solutions, Allergan PLC, and Actavis. Distributors McKesson Corp., Cardinal Health, and AmerisourceBergen are also named as defendants.

Ethicon’s parent company Johnson & Johnson is also named in the suit.

Georgia ranks among the top 11 states with the most opioid overdose deaths, according to the state attorney general’s office. Fifty-five Georgia counties have an overdose rate higher than the national average.

Habersham County Commissioner Victor Anderson says the county did not pay to file the lawsuit. The lawyers only get paid if there’s a settlement.

The county will be responsible for pulling data that shows the economic impact opioid use has on county services such as the hospital, jail, and EMS.

According to Anderson this is just a matter of pulling the appropriate information together in the form and manner requested.

22 other Georgia counties, municipalities, and hospitals, including Athens-Clarke, Banks and Hall counties, have filed suits.

More than 400 similar lawsuits have been filed nationwide cumulatively seeking over $75 million in damages.

Anderson likened the case to that against big tobacco when, in the mid 1990s, more than 40 states sued the nation’s top cigarette manufacturers over public healthcare costs associated with smoking.

Similar lawsuits are expected to be filed in the coming weeks on behalf of other Georgia cities, counties and hospitals.