MISSOULA – President Donald Trump declared the opioid crisis in the US as a national public health emergency in 2017.
In Montana, more than 700 people have died due to opioid overdose according to the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services.
Now the city of Missoula is attempting to hold the companies who produce prescription opioids’ accountable for some of the monetary impacts on the city.
The Missoula City Council approved a contract on Wednesday morning for the Boone Karlberg law firm to represent them in a lawsuit to regain monetary losses the city suffered because of prescription opioids.
This suit isn’t isolated just to Missoula as they join other cities from around Montana and some more are still considering joining the suit.
The national opioid epidemic has been going on for some time now and the effects can be felt at multiple levels from federal to state and even city.
Missoula is not immune to this epidemic and has approved retaining the Boone Karlberg law firm to represent them in a lawsuit against pharmaceutical opioid manufacturers and distributors.
“What this action does what this retention agreement allows us to do is pursue some of those damages and receive direct benefit from the suit rather than having rather than joining the Montana attorney general for example and being in a position of sharing that pot of money in a way that largely out of our control,” Missoula Mayor John Engen said.
The monetary loses that have been seen nationwide have racked up to a bill in the billion dollar range.
“The cost of the opioid epidemic according to the CDC is approximately 55.7 billion dollars annually. Of the amount 45% is going to healthcare costs approximately 25 billion dollars,” attorney for Boone Karlberg Scott Stearns said. “9% of that is criminal justice costs 5 billion dollars. 46% of it is contributing to workplace costs, like loss of productivity another almost 25 billion dollars.”
The lawsuit claims that manufacturers have not been willing to do a long term study of the effect of their products and that their products were advertised as safe and non-addictive.
“The claims that we bring against the manufacturers are the false and fraudulent marketing of the opioid pain medications,” Stearns added. “They said they were safe they said they were non-addictive that has proven to be completely false.”
The suit is being filled in conjunction with four other law firms and will be filled in the Great Falls district of Federal court. Other cities in Montana are considering joining the suit which attorneys hope to file next week.
Reporting by Connor McCauley for MTN News