SCHENECTADY — The city is looking to go after opioid manufacturers and distributors.
The City Council unanimously approved a resolution Monday for the city to enter into a future lawsuit with the Dreyer Boyajian LLP law firm to try to recoup costs the city suffered due to incidents involving opioid drugs. No lawsuit has been filed yet, and neither the city or the law firm has named possible defendants.
Mayor Gary McCarthy on Wednesday said the epidemic has put a stress on city police and medical services because of overdoses and other incidents. He said police are usually first to respond to someone overdosing and generally have to call in paramedics. A person is then given Narcan, which helps counteract the effects of an opioid overdose, and taken to the hospital.
“That’s the best case scenario,” McCarthy said. “A lot of [overdoses] result in fatalities.”
How much those costs are, though, has yet to be determined, McCarthy said. That will be something they will learn through analyzing the actual impact the crisis has had on the city.
Don Boyajian said it’s a problem facing many municipalities that otherwise could have better programs aimed at preventing, treating and even educating the public about opioid addiction.
“[Municipalities] have been affected financially. We want to look at various remedies to bring actions to recoup money,” Boyajian said. “Money that is otherwise borne by taxpayers.”
Schenectady County filed a similar lawsuit last June.
The county sued more than a dozen pharmaceutical companies, claiming they are responsible for the current epidemic. They said those companies misled doctors into thinking modern opioids were safe. This led doctors to prescribe them to patients for chronic pain, which caused many to become addicted, the suit claims.
Drugs such as morphine, hydrocodone and oxycodone are considered opioids.
Boyajian said this lawsuit would be similar. He said the campaign by pharmaceutical companies led to scientists and medical professors to promote the benefits of using opioid drugs for long-term pain management.
“The problem is not one that just happened overnight,” Boyajian said. “It’s happened over a period of time, and because drug manufacturers sell opioid derivative drugs, they made a concerted effort to expand the market from beyond acute pain management.”
According to a government report, there were 19,000 deaths in the U.S. in 2014, a number that quadrupled from 15 years earlier. The total number of deaths grew to 25,000 in 2015.
County officials said there were 55 overdose deaths between 2009 and 2013. The county also reported there were 529 opioid abuse-related hospital admissions in 2014.
Boyajian said it is unclear where the case would be tried because there could be other municipalities filing similar actions. If that’s the case, he said the lawsuit would be filed in a court centrally located to those municipalities.
The legal action also is being done at no cost to the city. If the city were to win in any legal action, Boyajian would get a cut. If the city doesn’t win, Boyajian said they wouldn’t be charged at all.