Dane County sues pharmaceutical manufacturers over opioid epidemic

Dane County is bringing the fight against the opioid epidemic to a federal courtroom, as it filed a lawsuit Thursday against several pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors.

“The opioid epidemic has taken a tremendous toll on our community – lives have been lost, families have been hurt, and Dane County taxpayers have shouldered the tremendous cost of trying to manage this growing crisis,” County Executive Joe Parisi said in a Thursday release announcing the lawsuit.

The suit, filed in the the Western District of Wisconsin, alleges that many of the country’s drug manufacturers “pushed highly addictive, dangerous opioids, and deliberately misinformed doctors by claiming that patients using the drugs rarely experienced addiction.”

The county has hired a team of law firms experienced in representing municipalities against pharmaceutical companies to lead the case.

The suit also alleges that several large drug distributors and and retail pharmacies “failed to monitor, identify and report suspicious activity,” as required by the Controlled Substances Act.

Drug overdoses have risen dramatically in the 21st century. By 2016, 85 people died in Dane County due to overdosing, compared to only 13 in 2000.

Nearly 300,000 opioid prescriptions have been dispensed to residents in Dane County since 2013.