The Pulaski County Commission has agreed to join a national lawsuit taking aim at opioid manufacturers, distributors and retailers.

The county does not incur any legal fees or expense. Participation is on a contingency basis. If successful, proceeds from a settlement would be able to be earmarked for prevention programs and other services to help offset the costs being incurred by government agencies responding to the opioid crisis.

The decision by the commission was made on the recommendation of Pulaski County Prosecuting Attorney Kevin Hillman.

“There’s no risk to the county for getting involved,” Hillman said. “But there is the potential for recovery. Pulaski County has one of the highest overdose rates in the state from prescription opioids.”

The multibillion-dollar suit, similar to the tobacco litigation, includes among other entities, towns, large cities, and some states. The intention is to force manufacturers and distributors to be held accountable. The case is in federal court in Ohio.

Based on date from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, between 2012 and 2016, Pulaski County recorded 45 deaths due to overdoses.

The Pulaski County Sheriff’s Department was one of the first in the state to arm deputies with an opioid antidote in an effort to stem the number of overdoses.

According to information from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, every day, more than 115 Americans die after overdosing on opioids.The misuse of and addiction to opioids—including prescription pain relievers, heroin, and synthetic opioids such as fentanyl—is a serious national crisis that affects public health as well as social and economic welfare.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the total “economic burden” of prescription opioid misuse alone in the United States is $78.5 billion a year, including the costs of healthcare, lost productivity, addiction treatment, and criminal justice involvement.

According to information on the opioid crisis and its impact on Missouri from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, in 2016, there were 914 opioid-related overdose deaths­­­ in Missouri—a rate of 15.9 deaths per 100 persons—compared to the national rate of 13.3 deaths per 100,000 persons. From 2012 to 2016 heroin overdose deaths increased from 210 to 380 deaths. Synthetic opioid overdose deaths have been increasing dramatically since 2013 from 97 to 441 deaths.

NIDA data shows in 2015, Missouri providers wrote 90 opioid prescriptions per 100 persons (5.2 million prescriptions). In the same year, the average U.S. rate was 70 opioid prescriptions per 100 persons.

Waynesville Daily Guide