Tooele County sues drug makers for alleged role in opioid crisis

Tooele opioids lawsuit. (Photo: MGN)

(KUTV) — Tooele County is suing a number of pharmaceutical companies because of the crisis of opioid addiction within the county.

The pharmaceutical companies are accused of violating the Utah Consumer Sales Practices Act, public nuisance, fraud, strict products liability, negligence, negligent marketing and civil conspiracy and unjust enrichment.

Tooele County is the second Utah county to sue over opioid overdoses, the first of which being Summit County.

"This case is about one thing," the lawsuit begins, "Corporate greed."

The pharmaceutical companies, according to the lawsuit, "put their desire for profits above the health, well-being, and safety of Tooele County residents."

"Exorbitant amounts" of money were spent by Tooele County to fight the opioid epidemic, which was caused by the pharmaceutical companies, the lawsuit states.

The defendants are accused of knowing the dangers of opioids if used long-term for chronic non-cancer pain, and that they should not be used except in limited circumstances.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has noted "grave risks" associated with opioids, "the most well-known of which include addiction, overdose, and even death," the lawsuit states. According to the FDA, even if used properly, opioids can result in life-threatening respiratory depression, coma and death, the lawsuit states.

Despite these dangers, the companies are accused of working to create a "sea change in the medical and public perception that would permit the use of opioids not just for acute and palliative car, but also for long periods of time to treat more common aches and pains, like lower back pain, arthritis and headaches," the lawsuit states.

The pharmaceutical companies sought to "reverse the popular and medical understanding of opioids" for the sake of profit, the lawsuit claims.

In November of 2017, District Attorney Sim Gill, Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes and Mayor Ben McAdams united to pursue legal action against drug manufacturers.

According to McAdams, many who use opioids turn to heroin because it is significantly cheaper.

"We are joining the legal fight to get the drug companies' attention," McAdams posted in a blog. "The terrible effect opioid pain pills is having on Utah families is unacceptable and tragic."

Read the full lawsuit below:

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