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County agrees to file suit against three largest opioid distributors

Attorney Mike Fuller of Hattiesburg approached the board of supervisors during their regular monthly meeting Tuesday morning.

Fuller is litigating on behalf of counties, cities, and governmental entities, to try to fix the opioid epidemic that is a growing concern throughout the U.S.

“We currently represent 60 counties and governmental entities with about 30-40 filed suits in federal court offering this opportunity,” said Fuller.

Fuller presented a map from the CDC showing each county in Mississippi and the number of opioid prescriptions per year in each county.

The number of opioid prescriptions in Jefferson Davis County is 125 per every 100 persons. The national average is 60 prescriptions per 100 persons.

“You have more prescriptions than you do people going out every year in this county.”

The lawsuit will be filed in federal court and will target the three largest wholesale opioid distribution companies in the U.S.: Cardinal Health Inc., AmerisourceBergen Drug Corp. and McKesson Corp.

Their growth in the industry mimics the opioid epidemic.

“They’ve ridden this thing like a wave,” said Fuller.

Fuller is seeking to hold the companies accountable to create a damage model that is three pronged: education, law enforcement, and treatment.

“We are asking those wholesale distributors to contribute to what they cause and help fix the problem. We want them to bring in a treatment facility, to step up law enforcement and to educate.

“Everyone laughs at the education prong of the model, but we think its hugely important. This thing is like a virus. It’s spreading. Unless you inoculate new potential hosts, it’s going to continue to spread, so we have to educate our children.

“Keep in mind, this isn’t crack pipes on the street or needles in the gutter. This is mom and dad’s prescription drugs sitting in the cupboard.

“Kids don’t see the harm in taking these medications.”

There are no financial obligations on the county’s part at all.

“Any fees they would receive are strictly contingent on any recovery the are able to obtain. If there is a recovery, their fees will be reimbursed by that, which his standard procedure,” said board attorney Wes Daughdrill.

“We are an area trying to get business and we know business relies on education and crime. This is a no-brainer, said Supervisor Michael Evans.

There are 5800 new opioid abusers a day in the US. Twenty percent fall between the ages of 12 and 17.

The JDC Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to move forward with the suit.