In response to the opioid epidemic, the City Council unanimously approved the consent agenda Tuesday, which included an ordinance that would investigate and pursue litigation against pharmaceutical manufacturers on behalf of the City.
It was approved 17-0 with two council members absent.
Cities across the country have struggled in recent years to contain opioid overdoses, which health officials say have reached epidemic levels.
Jacksonville hasn’t been spared from the crisis.
City officials say they’ve responded to 1,000 more drug overdose calls in 2016 than the previous year and expect to administer three times as much of a drug that reverses opioid overdoses in 2017 compared to 2015.
The cost of transporting overdose patients is expected to cost the city $4 million this year. The city has also committed $1.5 million to an experimental addiction treatment program.
Attorneys from a national law firm told council members in August they believe local governments have standing for a lawsuit and were preparing to file a complaint against six drug makers and two distributors. The firm has already been retained by the City of Delray Beach.
The attorneys didn’t elaborate on specific details of their case but said drug companies fraudulently marketed prescription opioids as a safe treatment for a wide variety of pain conditions and underplayed their highly addictive properties.
“The saddest part of the whole thing … these people, so many of them who are addicted, it’s a matter of them following doctors’ directions,” said Councilman Bill Gulliford, who proposed the lawsuit. “Here I am, trusting in both the company and medical professionals, and low and behold before you know it, I’m addicted to an opioid.”
Instead of the city filing the lawsuit itself, city attorneys will search for an outside law firm to file a complaint on its behalf.
The city will choose the firm based on several criteria, which includes the willingness to not charge the city any money upfront and receive payment only if the city wins a settlement.
Gulliford said he expects any potential lawsuit would last years but that he hopes the city will walk away with something.
“What I would hope, whatever we might recover might be utilized for the problem,” Gulliford said. “Part of it to reimburse what we know we’ve spent and will spend in the future, and maybe some money to put forward for better programs to address the problem.”
Read the original story from the Florida Times-Union here.