FARMINGTON, N.M. – A New Mexico county in the Four Corners region is examining whether it should join a number of other local governments across the U.S. in suing pharmaceutical companies over the destruction wrought by prescription opioid painkillers.
The San Juan County Commission unanimously approved hiring lawyers to investigate how much the opioid epidemic has cost the county, the Daily Times of Farmington reports .
The commission says the county likely will file a lawsuit against pharmaceutical companies alleging they falsely advertised the drugs and failed to disclose their addictive nature to doctors and patients.
“It’s not for the people who got addicted,” County Attorney Doug Echols said. “It’s for the injuries we sustained because of addicted people in our community.”
More than 200 people visited the emergency room in San Juan County due to overdosing on opioid prescription medication between 2010 and 2014, according to state Health Department data.
Echols noted the group of lawyers the county is contracting with is representing hundreds of different entities in opioid litigation.
Last year, the New Mexico Attorney General’s office filed a lawsuit against major manufacturers and distributors of prescription opioid medication on allegations that they exacerbated the state’s drug addiction crisis.
Northern New Mexico’s Santa Fe and Mora counties also have sued. And last month, the Navajo Nation filed a lawsuit against pharmaceutical companies and drug distributors alleging their conduct caused the opioid crisis. The tribe says Native Americans have suffered disproportionately from opioid dependency and abuse, leading to death, family dysfunction, poverty and social despair.
At the time, one defendant denied the allegations, while some declined to comment or did not reply to requests for comment. Others have said they were working to help combat the opioid epidemic and had reported suspicious orders to the federal government.