The Chester County Board of Commissioners announced its intent Tuesday morning to take even greater action to combat the devastating effects of the opioid crisis on its residents.
The county has retained the law firm Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd LLP to file a civil lawsuit in the Federal Eastern District of Pennsylvania against drug manufacturers and distributors for their role in the opioid epidemic.
“There is no compensation great enough to cover the cost of the lives we have lost to opioid addiction,” said Chester County Commissioners’ Chair Michelle Kichline. “We have devoted a tremendous amount of resources to help address the opioid crisis for our citizens, but this problem is not going away. Funding is needed to sustain the programs, services, and additional resources needed, and pharmaceutical manufacturers must shoulder a portion of that burden.”
Chester County’s lawsuit is focused on securing funding to aid with critical educational and addiction recovery assistance, social service needs, compensation for law enforcement and court-related costs, education, and prevention measures. It will seek restitution for the harm incurred as a result of deceptive and fraudulent marketing practices of several pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors and the failure to report suspicious purchases by certain wholesalers, which is a violation of federal and state laws.
“Our plan is to work with Robbins Geller Rudman and Dowd to work toward the actual filing of the lawsuit within the next one to two months,” said Kichline, “and while we are currently undertaking research to identify the most appropriate defendants, I can confirm that two Chester County-based pharmaceutical companies will be included on that list – Endo Pharmaceuticals and Cephalon, Inc.”
Chester County recorded 108 accidental fatal drug overdoses in 2018.
Through the effective actions of the Chester County Overdose Prevention Task Force, which encompasses leaders in health, drug addiction, and law enforcement, the county can claim one of the most comprehensive anti-opioid initiatives in the state.
“Our actions in addressing this crisis have been deep and wide, led by a task force that has been established since 2015 and that has more than 40 active community partners,” said Chester County Commissioner Kathi Cozzone.
Actions related to the task force include:
- distribution of Naloxone to every municipal police department in the county, other first responders, and individuals and community organizations
- the creation of a program that provides support and direct links to treatment in emergency rooms to victims of overdoses
- widespread medication drop-box sites
- continuing opioid education events for healthcare providers, other professionals and community organizations, and the general public
Another event borne out of the county’s Overdose Prevention Task Force is the Chester County Color 5K, an annual event which has helped to raise awareness of the crisis and more than $100,000 over three years, as well as reduce the stigma of being associated with opioid addiction.
Chester County and the surrounding area is known as a key pharmaceutical corridor on the east coast with a number of “big pharma” companies headquartered here. Many other companies linked to the pharmaceutical industry call Chester County home.
“We understand that many of our residents work for pharmaceutical companies in and around Chester County, but that will not stop our efforts to ensure that federal and state laws are followed,” said Cozzone. “While economic development is important, the lives of our neighbors, families, and friends are more important. It is the responsibility of pharmaceutical companies to act responsibly in the dissemination of opioids.”
“It is alarming to see that this has become a crisis that spans generations and that has no socioeconomic boundaries,” said Chester County Commissioner Terence Farrell. “The prevalence of opioid-based drugs throughout our community, throughout the region, the state, and the nation is evident in the loss of children, young adults, parents, and even grandparents.
“In just a few short years, everyone has come to know someone impacted by the abuse of opioids. We want to stem the tide of devastating loss, and this litigation is yet another tool that we’re using to help us find a solution to the crisis.”