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Columbus Council Votes to Take Legal Action Against Drug Manuafacturers

Posted on Mar 08, 2018 at 0:00 AM

In 2014, Columbus had an opioid prescription rate of 99.6 for every 100 people - almost one prescription for every man, woman and child living in the city, according to statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In 2016, the latest year for which statistics were provided by local officials, the city’s opioid prescription rate remained one of the highest in the state at 90.7 per 100 people. That compared to the state average of 77.8 per 100 people and the national average of 66.5 per 100 people.

Muscogee County Coroner Buddy Bryan said many people are becoming addicted to the drugs, and he sees the devastating results every day.

“We consider those accidental overdoses in 99.99 percent of the cases,” he said of situations where people die from opioids. “... And we’re seeing at least two or three a month. When I first started, we might have had 12 a year. Now, we’re seeing double the numbers.”

Bryan said he received a memo two weeks ago from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Medical Examiner’s Office, requesting that he report cases where it is apparent that the pills are being pushed by a local physician or clinic.

“It’s a nationwide epidemic, but it is prevalent in Columbus, Georgia,” Bryan said. “And it’s got the attention of the higher-ups - you know, the Governor on down the line, now, for sure.”

Bryan isn’t the only local official concerned about opioid addictions in Columbus.

Last week, Columbus Council voted to hire a group of attorneys to go after manufacturers and distributors of opioid prescription drugs flooding the local market — much like municipalities went after Tobacco companies in previous years.

City Attorney Clifton Fay said the decision is part of a national movement by cities and counties filing civil action against pharmaceutical companies and other businesses profiting from the abuse of opioid prescription drugs.

Fay said officials are still calculating how much the opioid epidemic is costing the city, and it will be part of the complaint soon to be filed in U.S. District Court. He said the attorneys representing Columbus plan to file the legal document within about two weeks.

The complaint will then be transferred to a court in Ohio for preliminary determinations, said Assistant City Attorney Lucy Sheftall. It will be lumped together with a large group of similar civil actions filed by municipalities across the country in an effort to recoup costs borne by local governments due to opioid-related hospitalizations, incarceration and other services. If the case moves forward, it would return to Columbus to be tried in district court.

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