BATON ROUGE, LA – January 23 2018 – Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome announced today that the Parish of East Baton Rouge is taking a long-needed step to hold accountable the companies responsible for dumping millions of dollars’ worth of prescription opiates into our community, filing a lawsuit against the pharmaceutical drug manufacturers and wholesale drug distributors that made the opioid epidemic possible.
East Baton Rouge Parish has filed suit against five of the largest manufacturers of prescription opioids and their related companies and against the country’s three largest wholesale drug distributors. The manufacturing companies pushed highly addictive, dangerous opioids, falsely representing to doctors that patients would only rarely succumb to drug addiction, while the distributors breached their legal duties to monitor, detect, investigate, refuse, and report suspicious orders of prescription opioids. East Baton Rouge Parish is joining a growing list of city and county governments across the country that are taking action against the drug manufacturers and distributors for fueling the opioid crisis in their communities.
Because prescription opioids are a highly addictive substance, in 1970 Congress designed a system to control the volume of opioid pills being distributed in this country. It let only a select few wholesalers gain the right to deliver opioids. In exchange, those companies agreed to do a very important job – halt suspicious orders and control against the diversion of these dangerous drugs to illegitimate uses. But in recent years they failed to do that, and today the Baton Rouge community is paying the price.
Mayor-President Broome and the Parish Council are working with a consortium of law firms to hold pharmaceutical wholesale distributors accountable for failing to do what they were charged with doing under the federal Controlled Substances Act – monitor, identify, and report suspicious activity in the size and frequency of opioid shipments to pharmacies and hospitals.
“As Mayor-President, I am determined to do everything in my power to stop this epidemic from further destroying the lives of the people of Baton Rouge,” Mayor-President Broome said. “But until we address the source of this epidemic and force drug makers and distributors to follow the law, we will continue to face an uphill battle.”
“The people of Baton Rouge 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,” Mayor-President Broome said. “Based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for nine consecutive years, from 2006-2014, opioid prescriptions ranged from over 103 to almost 131 prescriptions per 100 persons in Baton Rouge. That is more than one opioid prescription for every man, woman and child. The numbers have gone down slightly in the past 2 years, but are still too high, hovering at over 9 opioid prescriptions for every 10 residents of East Baton Rouge Parish in 2015 and 2016. The pharmaceutical industry, not the taxpayer, should pay for the damages caused by this crisis.”
In 2017, a record number of people in East Baton Rouge died from drug overdose deaths, the vast majority of which involved opioids. EMS paramedics administered over 737 doses of naloxone to individuals who were overdosing in 2017.
East Baton Rouge Parish has hired expert law firms, experienced in holding the powerful pharmaceutical industry accountable. Those firms include: Baron & Budd; Levin, Papantonio, Thomas, Mitchell, Rafferty & Proctor; Greene Ketchum Bailey Farrell & Tweel; Hill, Peterson, Carper, Bee & Deitzler; and McHugh Fuller Law Group.