Bucks County takes strong stand in fight against opioids
Sounds like “fake news,” doesn’t it?
A $20 million prison expansion to accommodate the increase in the Bucks County inmate population due to opioid addiction; some $4 million in annual outsourcing costs to house Bucks County inmates in other prisons due to overcrowding by the addiction epidemic; and hiring two additional Bucks County Coroner’s Office employees to handle the influx of opioid-related deaths and pay funeral expenses for a number of unclaimed victims.
It’s all “real news.” In addition to an increasing number of Bucks County residents killed by opioid overdose, the news items are some of the side effects that have hit Bucks and inspired the county recently to file a 159-page lawsuit against major manufactures and distributors of prescription opioids.
“You can’t put a price or value on human life, but the county can put a price on the collateral costs of dealing with this epidemic,” said Robert G. Loughery, chairman, Bucks County Commissioners.
The human loss alone in this epidemic is staggering and devastating and needs our attention. There were 232 residents killed last year by opioid overdose, an 89 percent increase over 2015. Now add in the “collateral costs” that have ranged far and impact us like prison overpopulation and Coroner’s Office impacts. This epidemic is costly.
There were other ways, like creation of a six-detective, $900,000-a-year Drug Strike Force by the county District Attorney’s Office in the battle; a 66.5 percent increase in 911 emergency opioid-related telephone calls since 2012, with each call taking about 30 minutes to resolve at a cost of about $30 apiece; and NARCAN purchases.
The county lawsuit seeks an undetermined amount of damages from 17 corporate defendants and one individual alleged to be responsible for the deadly and costly wave. The corporate entities include the largest producers of prescription opioids like Purdue Pharma, creator of OxyContin. That drug makes up 30 percent of the analgesic painkiller market and has annual national sales of $3.1 billion. The individual defendant is John Kapoor, founder and former CEO of Insys Therapeutics Inc., manufacturer of a spray medication.
Said Loughery, “We want to take a stand against this epidemic and this scourge on our families.”
Such a stand — one being taken on by numerous entities nationwide — will be a big fight. But it’s necessary and could result in positive change like the successful battles with tobacco and asbestos.