Dems tell state to sue Big Pharma as opioid deaths surge
Thirty-six legislators are calling on Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel to sue pharmaceutical companies for deceptive and fraudulent marketing of addictive prescription drugs.
The Democrats, in a letter to Schimel, said the drugs led to an opioid epidemic — in the state and nationwide. Between 2013 and 2015, opioid overdoses caused 1,824 deaths in Wisconsin.
“The pharmaceutical companies that make these drugs have raked in big profits while creating a public-health epidemic that has cost our state thousands of lives and millions of dollars,” said Democratic state Rep. Lisa Subeck.
Two-thirds of Wisconsin counties have filed or authorized lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies for their alleged role in the opioid epidemic.
Democratic lawmakers want the state to sue as well.
Subeck said, “We are calling on Attorney General Schimel to stop dragging his feet and … join the two-thirds of Wisconsin counties, seven states and other jurisdictions throughout the country by filing a lawsuit on behalf of the people of Wisconsin to hold the pharmaceutical companies accountable for their role in creating the opioid epidemic.”
RISING OVERDOSE RATE AND PROJECTED DEATHS
In a report released in late December 2017, Trust for America’s Health used data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to count drug overdoses and make projections.
The report, “Pain in the Nation,” said the 2015 drug overdose rate in Wisconsin was 15.5 per 100,000. By the following year, the rate had risen to 19.3 — a 25 percent increase.
The report’s projection for the “worstcase scenario” put the state’s drug overdose deaths at 42.2 per 100,000 in 2025 — more than twice what they are now.
“These are not simply numbers — these are actual lives,” said Dr. Benjamin F. Miller, chief policy officer for Well Being Trust. Costs too continue to mount.
The Wisconsin Legislature since 2013 has committed more than $14 million to combat the opioid epidemic through the Heroin Opioid Prevention and Education– HOPE initiative.
As a result of opioid abuse, the state also has seen increased costs for law enforcement, hospitalizations and emergency room visits, foster-care placements and other services to children and families, first responders, court services, and other services. Others who signed the letter to Schimel: State Reps. Debra Kolste, Gordon Hintz, Katrina Shankland, Dave Considine, Dianne Hesselbein, Terese Berceau, JoCasta Zamarripa, Sondy Pope, Chris Taylor, Melissa Sargent, Evan Goyke, Christine Sinicki, Jimmy Anderson, Gary Hebl, Steve Doyle, Tod Ohnstad, Amanda Stuck, Josh Zepnick, David Crowley, Jonathan Brostoff, David Bowen, Mark Spreitzer, Dana Wachs, Jill Billings, Leon Young, Eric Genrich.
State Sens. Jennifer Shilling, Tim Carpenter, Lena Taylor, Janis Ringhand, Fred Risser, Jon Erpenbach, Kathleen Vinehout, Janet Bewley and Dave Hansen also signed.