Medical pot laws no answer for US opioid deaths, study finds

FILE — This Aug. 29, 2018, file photo shows an arrangement of Oxycodone pills. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

The city of Hopewell this week filed a federal civil suit against the makers, distributors and pharmacies connected to the opioid epidemic, making it one of dozens of localities in Virginia and hundreds across the country seeking to recoup the costs for responding to addiction and overdoses.

The lawsuit names more than 55 entities involved in making and supplying opioids in the city.

OxyContin manufacturer Purdue Pharma and the company’s controlling family agreed earlier this year to pay $270 million to Oklahoma to settle allegations they helped create the opioid crisis with their aggressive marketing of the drug. Federal statistics show that opioids — a class of drugs that includes prescription painkillers as well as illicit forms such as heroin — were a factor in a record 48,000 deaths across the U.S. in 2017. In Hopewell, 46 people have died of opioid overdoses since 2007, about half of them from prescription painkillers, according to state figures.

In Virginia, prescription painkillers have caused more than 5,000 deaths since 2007. Illicit forms such as heroin and fentanyl have killed another 3,700 in the same time frame.

The lawsuit, filed with the U.S. Northern District Court of Ohio, seeks repayment for money invested in emergency and law enforcement personnel and other costs related to the drugs’ effects. It claims defendants participated in deceptive marketing while also failing to stop suspicious orders.

“I was born and raised in Hopewell and have friends who have been personally affected by the opioid epidemic,” Lee J. Bujakowski, the Marks & Harrison attorney managing the case, said in a news release. “We know that manufacturers, distributors and retailers did not follow federal regulations and created an opioid epidemic that wreaked havoc on countless Americans, including the Hopewell community. This lawsuit is one of the many ways the city of Hopewell is fighting to protect its residents from the dangers of opioid abuse.”

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