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Santa Fe County sues opioid makers, distributors

SANTA FE – Santa Fe County has filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court against several opioid manufacturers and distributors, becoming the fourth county in the state to go after the companies they say are responsible for the “biggest drug crisis Santa Fe County has ever experienced.”

The county enlisted Milwaukee law firm Crueger Dickinson and national law firm Simmons Hanly Conroy to file the 278-page complaint. A news release from public relations firm DKC says the manufacturers and distributors, which include Walgreens and Walmart, have caused financial and social hardship for the county.

“The defendants’ conduct caused the county to incur substantial economic, administrative and social costs relating to opioid addiction and abuse, including criminal justice costs, victimization costs, child protective services costs, lost productivity costs, and education and preventive program costs, among others,” the release says.

The county commission unanimously approved a resolution to bring legal actions against drug companies in November. San Juan, Mora and Bernalillo counties have already filed similar complaints, and New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas filed a lawsuit on behalf of the state.

The Santa Fe County lawsuit says the defendants created a false perception in the minds of doctors, patients and health care providers that using opioids for chronic pain was safe and that their benefits outweighed their risks. “This was allegedly perpetrated through a coordinated, sophisticated and highly deceptive promotion and marketing campaign – including unbranded messaging to evade extensive regulatory framework governing branded communications,” the release says.

The lawsuit says the manufacturers had the obligation to track “suspiciously large surges in prescription opioid demand” and that they’re supposed to exercise control over the “obvious” oversupply of opioid pills.

Drug companies have said in response to prior lawsuits that they have acted responsibly and work to deter opioid abuse.