Baton Rouge files lawsuit against opioid drug makers

Baton Rouge Mayor Sharon Weston Broome, claiming opioid manufacturers are responsible for doctors writing prescriptions without monitoring usage or warning patients of the highly addictive nature of opioids, announced East Baton Rouge Parish was suing pharmaceutical companies for their role in the area’s opioid epidemic.

The lawsuit, filed in a Baton Rouge federal court, names five of the largest manufacturers of prescription drugs and their related companies as defendants, accusing them of engaging in misrepresentation, fraud and violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations and the Louisiana Products Liability acts to dump millions of dollars of prescription opioids into the community.  

“The people of Baton Rouge continue to bear the burden of the cost of the epidemic,” Broome says in a news release.

There were between 103 to 131 opioid prescriptions per 100 persons in Baton Rouge from 2006 to 2014, Broome says, citing data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The EMS administered over 737 doses of naloxone to overdosing individuals last year.

“That is more than one opioid prescription for every man, woman and child,” she says. “The numbers have gone down slightly in the past two years, but are still too high, hovering at over nine opioid prescriptions for every 10 residents of East Baton Rouge Parish in 2015 and 2016. The pharmaceutical industry, not the taxpayer, should pay for the damages caused by this crisis.”

The city-parish, according to the lawsuit, is seeking compensation for the past and future cost of combating the opioid epidemic, an “abatement fund” to reduce the crisis and damages to cover the cost of medical care and treatment for those suffering from opioid addiction. The lawsuit also seeks to recover expenses incurred by law enforcement agencies fighting the epidemic, among other things.

The possibility of Baton Rouge suing opioid drug makers began last fall, with Broome supporting a Metro Council item in October to hire Baron & Budd to litigate the case. The council approved the measure in December. Baron & Budd, one of several firms involved in the Baton Rouge lawsuit, is currently litigating dozens of opioid lawsuits across the country. Firms from Baton Rouge involved in the suit: Murray & Murray; Jackson, Vance, Morrison; and the James Law Office, which is the practice of state Rep. Ted James, who served on Broome’s transition team.

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