Dems tell state to sue Big Pharma as opi­oid deaths surge

Wisconsin Gazette - - News - By Lisa Neff Staff writer

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.

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