Harford executive plans suit against opioid manufacturers, prescribers


Originally posted on: http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/harford/aegis/ph-ag-opioid-suit-planned-20180110-story.html

Harford County will join the growing list of Maryland Counties in suing opioid manufactures, distributors and local subscribers for their alleged roles in spurring an abuse crisis that has reached epidemic proportions, County Executive Barry Glassman said Tuesday.

In his annual State of the County Address delivered in the County Council chamber in Bel Air, Glassman said he will direct the county’s Law Department to draw up request for proposals for such a lawsuit.

Prescription drugs have been blamed as a key factor in getting people addicted to opioids, leading them to harder drugs such as heroin and fentanyl.

Harford County experienced more than 80 deaths blamed on opioid overdoses in 2017 on top of more than 50 in 2016, according to the County Sheriff’s Office, which has responded to more than 600 overdose calls in the past three years.

Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz announced plans this week to file a federal lawsuit against drug companies, and Anne Arundel County filed suit in local Circuit Court last week.

Both county governments allege drug manufacturers and distributors pressured doctors to prescribe opioids and misrepresented the risks of addiction, The Baltimore Sun and Annapolis Capital reported.

Cecil County also filed suit against opioid manufacturers, the Cecil Whig reported.

Glassman said the county will work with the county Health Department, the nonprofit Healthy Harford and University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Health to establish a 24-hour crisis center “for those in their ultimate moment of need.”

He will allocate $250,000 toward the center, on top of the $250,000 the county already spends on addiction treatment and prevention.

Harford County Sheriff Jeffrey Gahler, who was in the audience during the State of the County, lauded Glassman’s plans for the crisis center and expressed his support for joining other counties in suing opioid manufacturers.

Gahler said “overprescription by the medical providers is what has led us into the high loss of life and the overdoses that we’re seeing.”

“We know from our three years of experience, looking at this from the treatment angle as well as the law enforcement angle that when we touch these people, that’s the time that we can have the most impact and steer them to a path of treatment, and having a place to put them is huge,” the sheriff said of a crisis center. “We don’t have that now, and the county executive has taken a big step in that direction, and that’s great.”

Barry Glassman County Executive