MOUNT VERNON — The Knox County Commissioners are turning to Knox County Common Pleas Court for permission to join a lawsuit against pharmaceutical companies “to hold accountable the companies responsible for dumping millions of dollars’ worth of prescription opiates into its community.”

The Board of Commissioners passed a resolution Tuesday to declare a public nuisance against the opioid manufacturers and wholesale distributors and to request the Knox County Common Pleas Court’s approval for the county to retain a legal team to represent the county in potential litigation against the pharmaceutical companies.

Pending approval from the court, the board of commissioners will be working with a consortium of law firms to hold pharmaceutical drug manufacturers and wholesale distributors accountable for failing to do what they were charged with under the federal Controlled Substances Act — monitor, identify and report suspicious activity in the size and frequency of opioid shipments to pharmacies and hospitals.

“We are determined to do everything in our power to stop this epidemic from further destroying the lives of the people of Knox County. Ending this crisis is going to take a major collective effort that involves municipal, state and federal leaders, lawmakers, doctors, law enforcement and health officials coming together to find workable solutions,” said Teresa Bemiller, commissioner. “But until we address the source of this epidemic and force drug makers and distributors to follow the law, our community will continue to face an uphill battle.”

The residents of Knox County continue to bear the burden of the cost of the epidemic, as the costs of treatment for addiction, education and law enforcement have continued to rise, according to a press release issued by the commissioners late Tuesday. Based on the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 5.5 opioid prescriptions were dispensed for every 10 residents of Knox County in 2016. According to the Ohio Department of Health, in 2016, unintentional drug overdoses caused the deaths of 4,050 Ohio residents, a 32.8 percent increase compared to 2015.

If Knox County joins the lawsuit, it will be one of more than 320 complaints in the consolidated lawsuits in a case in federal court in Cleveland. Judge Dan Polster gave his approval for 12 additional lawsuits to join the case.

The new cases include lawsuits brought by the city of Lebanon, Ohio; Marion County, Alabama; Candler County, Georgia; Onondaga County, New York; and Skagit County in Washington state.

Polster is trying to hammer out a settlement between the industry and communities that have filed complaints.



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