County joins fight against opioids

Lassen County is joining the fight against Big Pharma by participating in the California Counties Opioid Consortium.

The consortium, which includes 29 other California counties, is joining in the multi-district litigation against the manufacturers and distributors of opioids.

The intention is to recover the costs of prevention efforts, treatments and services, as well as costs associated with putting residents in jail who are addicted to prescription painkillers and heroin.

During the Lassen County Board of Supervisors meeting April 24 in Beiber, the board unanimously approved a resolution authorizing the participating in the consortium.

“The county has a unique opportunity to join a recently formed consortium of California counties for the purpose of joining the multi-district litigation,” read the approved resolution.

With the consortium using the same firm, Baron and Budd, P.C., the county is joining more than 100 counties nationwide in the federal litigation.

“The California Opioid Consortium and its counsel have developed evidence that many of the nation’s largest drug manufactures misinformed doctors about the addictiveness and efficacy of opioids. The manufacturer defendants include Purdue Pharma, Teva Ltd, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson), Endo Health Solutions, Inc., Allergan PLC and Mallinckrodt. Drugs manufactured by these companies include, but are not limited to: OxyContin, Actiq, Fentora, Duragesic, Nucynta, Nucynta ER, Opana/Opana ER, Percodan, Percocet, Zydone, Kadian and Norco,” read a statement from Baron and Budd.

“The lawsuits also name the nation’s largest drug distributors – Cardinal Health, Amerisource Bergen, and McKesson Corp. – alleging that the companies failed to monitor, identify and report “suspicious” opioid shipments to pharmacies, in violation of the federal Controlled Substances Act. Some suits also name other large national distributors and retailers,” the statement continued.

The affects of opioid abuse are apparent across the nation, even in Lassen County.

According to data from the California Department of Public Health and the California Opioid Overdose Surveillance Dashboard, from 2008 to 2016 there were 52 opioid related deaths in Lassen County.

Prior to making the decision on entering into the litigation, the supervisors were informed on the facts of opioid usage in the area.

For the most recent year for which data was available, there was the equivalent of one opioid prescription written per person in Lassen County and there were “enough opioids to keep every man, woman and child medicated around the clock for 15 weeks a year.”

Per the professional services agreement between Lassen County and Baron and Budd, the county will pay a contingency fee to the counsel. The agreement details the county agrees to pay 18 percent of the total recovery in favor of the county. If there is no recovery, there is no fee.

There is also a clause allowing of the termination of the agreement for any reason.

“As a California native, I stand with these 30 counties to recover taxpayer funds and to prevent the proliferation of the crisis. For too long, local governments have subsidized the bad acts of some of the largest corporations in our country, which are reaping billion-dollar profits and placing profits over public safety,” said Baron and Budd Shareholder, John Fiske in the statement. “These 30 counties are standing up for their communities, and I am proud to be a part of their action.”