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BernCo Commission Takes Action Against Drug Companies

09/06/2017

The Bernalillo County Commission has voted to sue pharmaceutical companies that manufacture and distribute addictive prescription opioid pain medications. The lawsuit will seek changes in marketing and prescription practices as well as compensation for increased costs to Bernalillo County taxpayers. Commissioners have expressed concern that drug companies have engaged in misleading marketing practices that overstate the effectiveness of opioid-based pain medications and understate how easy it is to get hooked on pain pills.

“Bernalillo County is heavily impacted by the opioid crisis, and it’s devastating our community,” Commission Chair Debbie O’Malley says. “We’ve seen an increase in opioid-related crime, which in turn drives up the cost of public safety. It’s time to hold the drug companies accountable.”

The commission voted 4-0 in a closed meeting last Wednesday to sue the drug companies and move forward with a request for proposals to select a law firm to work with. The suit has not been filed yet. The request for proposals will be issued sometime later this month.

“For several years, Bernalillo County consistently has had one of the highest overdose death rates in the United States and many of those deaths are tied to prescription opiates -- either directly or when people get addicted to medications provided by their doctor and then turn to heroin,” Commissioner Maggie Hart Stebbins says. “This is a public health crisis that has impacted every corner of our community, at all levels of our society. I hope this lawsuit will drive change in the prescribing and marketing practices that have harmed so many families in our community and driven up law enforcement and healthcare costs across New Mexico.”

From 2013 to 2015, 374 people died from opioid overdoses in Bernalillo County, according to the Bernalillo County Community Health Council. Of those, 185 deaths were from pain pills; 153 were from heroin only; and 36 deaths were from both. The 374 deaths represent 36 percent of New Mexico’s total opioid overdose deaths in that same time frame.

The request for proposals will be posted on the county’s web site later this month, located here: http://www.bernco.gov/general-services/open-solicitations.aspx.

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