Anne Arundel County plans to sue big pharma and pill mill doctors for the opioid epidemic

Posted at 5:26 PM, Sep 06, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-06 17:27:01-04

It's a problem that's out of control. In 2015, there were enough doses of opioids prescribed in Anne Arundel County to give every resident a two-week supply of pills.

"He was on Percocet, OxyContin, Vicodin, he was prescribed all these at the same time," said Ginger Rosella.

For her son Jacob Paddy, the medicine cabinet was his first drug dealer. 

After two years of being sober all it took was another pain pill prescription for the Pasadena man to relapse.

"You know, the pills ran out, heroin's cheap, a month-and-a-half later my son's dead," Rosella said.

Officials say the drug habit for nearly 80 percent of the county's heroin addicts started from a prescription written by a doctor.

"I've lost one son, and I live in fear I’m going to lose the second one because he can't live with what happened to his brother and the damage these opiates have done to him," said Denise Williams.

The county now plans to sue big pharma for the opioid epidemic. Leaders have hired a law firm, and want the court to decide if pharmaceutical companies can be held legally responsible, and be forced to pay for the consequences of the crisis.

"We have come to the sad and undeniable conclusion that major pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors are complicit, utilizing practices like bogus research that played down the addictive qualities of these opiates,” County Executive Steve Shuh said. 

He says these companies also used misleading, deceptive and dangerous marketing practices to promote over-prescribing, and that helped ignite and amplify the opioid epidemic.

The lawsuit will also target local physicians.

“Bottom feeder doctors who make their living prescribing vast amounts of these drugs to people who are suffering from this disease," said Shuh.

Similar litigation has been filed across the country, but this is a first for Maryland. The investigation has started, but right now there's no timeline for when any local of federal lawsuits will be filed.

"Nothing is off the table at this point in terms of the causes of action we could pursue, or defendants we could include in the case," said Elizabeth Smith, Attorney with Motely Rice Law Firm.

Any money the county wins will go right back into the opioid battle and helping people regain control of their lives.