Birmingham among those launching lawsuit against opioid crisis

opioid crisis
opioid crisis
Remember that one South Park episode? – via FBI and wsfa.com

The City of Birmingham has joined almost 200 other municipalities in a series of lawsuits against several pharmaceutical distributors.  The reason?  These cities think that the distributors failed to take basic steps in preventing straw purchases of highly-addictive opioids, making the well-known opioid crisis worse.

Where it all began

The opioid crisis began in the 90’s.  At that time, pharmaceutical companies convinced the medical community that a need for effective pain relievers outweighed the risks of addiction.  Pharma said those risks were overblown.  As research which contradicted these promises began filtering in, so did cases of addiction and overdose.

Public health crisis
opioid crisis
Lethal doses of heroin (left) and fentanyl (right).  Fentanyl may be legal via prescription, but should only be used when all other options fail – via NIH

Unfortunately, efforts to reduce addiction seem scarce.  About 50,000 people in America died of an opioid overdose last year.  Earlier this year, President Donald Trump declared the crisis a national public health emergency.  So far, no one has proposed a concrete solution.

30-day dental procedure?

However, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, who runs the FDA, has hinted at possible short-term improvements.  Speaking to the Financial Times, Dr. Gottlieb said that the FDA was considering asking drug makers to start “packaging [opioids] in two, four, six and eight-day packs… For a dental procedure, you shouldn’t need a 30-day supply.”

opioid crisis
Currently, we measure the impact of opioid misuse by its economic impact, healthcare cost, and criminal justice cost. I don’t think that takes the emotional toll into account – image via CNN

But for now, there are only these 200-ish cities and their lawsuit.  The lawsuit has transferred, as all lawsuits brought by government entities are, to US District Judge Dan Polster, in Ohio.  We may not see a conclusive result to this lawsuit for years.  But actors on every level of government are waking up to one of America’s most tragic problems.

Want to learn more?  The Alabama Public Health Opioid Summit recorded its entire event here.

Author: James Ozment

I'm a Birmingham native who loves music, cycling, reading, and tech. Find me on the campus of Birmingham-Southern College, in Avondale, or hanging out with my cat