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Bensalem set to sue Big Pharma over opioid crisis

Bensalem Township has announced plans to bring a lawsuit against manufacturers of the painkillers whose use can often lead to addiction.
Prescriptions for pain medicine have helped fuel the opioid epidemic. Photo: Getty Images

On the eve of Thursday’s observance of International Overdose Awareness Day, held on Aug. 31, Bensalem Township announced Wednesday, a plan to combat the region’s opioid crisis in an attempt to hit drug manufacturers where it hurts – the wallet.

According to a statement released by the office of Bensalem Mayor Joseph DiGirolamo, the township plans to sue more than a dozen drug manufacturing companies, including Purdue Pharma LLP, Johnson and Johnson, Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc. and others, citing that these drug companies “worked to create the impression that opioids of chronic pain” and that they “worked to create an impression that the risk for addiction was slight and could be fairly easily controlled.”

“That is simply not accurate,” notes the released statement.

The released statement notes that the “war on opioid abuse” has led to increased and expanded police efforts to combat the expanding problem, including “enhanced investigative techniques, aggressive prevention programs and close work with rehabilitation and treatment centers.”

“Despite these ongoing efforts, however, the crisis continues and the time has now come to hold the drug companies that have caused this problem accountable,” the release reads.

According to the statement, in Bensalem alone, from 2006 to 2017, the overdose rate, due to opioid abuse, has risen 556-percent while arrest rates for opioid-related crimes have increased 156-percent. As a result, the township says, the opioid crisis has cost local taxpayers millions of tax dollars spent on police and first responder costs while the drug companies that create the painkillers tied to this crisis haven’t spent anything to help defray these costs.

In its lawsuit, as detailed in the released statement, Bensalem Township is pursuing legal remedies claiming the drug companies involved in the lawsuit participated in “unlawful conduct” that “causes and contributes to the opioid crisis,” including claims under the unfair trade practices and consumer protection law as well as claims of public nuisance, fraud, and unjust enrichment.

“The township intends to make sure that the wrongdoers are held fully responsible for these wrongs and for the losses they have caused to the residents and taxpayers of Bensalem,” notes the statement.