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ABQ considering litigation against opioid manufacturers

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The city of Albuquerque could soon join hundreds of municipalities, counties and states across the country to pursue litigation against opioid manufacturers and distributors.

District 3 City Councilor Klarissa Pena

City councilors earlier this month affirmed their support of the city taking legal action, stating in a resolution that “there exists in Albuquerque an epidemic of opioid drug abuse created and/or fueled by misconduct of opioid manufacturers and distributors in their improper promotion and oversupply of those drugs.”

Opioids of all types killed more than 42,000 people in 2016, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“This is an epidemic, not only in our city but in our country,” said Councilor Klarissa Peña, co-sponsor of the resolution with Councilor Pat Davis, during Monday’s council meeting. “I think this is a good-faith effort in terms of trying to address it with the pharmaceuticals in terms of, I think, their misleading ways in trying to say that opioids are good for us.”

According to data from the Kaiser Family Foundation, New Mexico saw 153 deaths from opioids in 2016, down from 160 deaths in 2015 and 223 deaths in 2014.

Mayor Tim Keller

New Mexico in 2016 experienced 17.5 opioid deaths per 100,000 population, however, ranking the state’s opioid-related overdose death rate at 15th in the nation.

In a statement, Mayor Tim Keller said the city was “in the beginning stages of joining the fight” against opioid manufacturers and distributors but did not go into detail on what any potential action would look like.

“The opioid epidemic takes a heavy toll on families in our community, from all walks of life,” Keller said. “Albuquerque is facing increased costs from medical emergencies and keeping life-saving medications like NARCAN in stock. We’re stepping up to hold the companies accountable that have continuously promoted opioids, even in the face of growing concerns.”

NARCAN, also known as naloxone, can reverse the effects an opioid overdose. Pharmacies can dispense naloxone as an injection or nasal spray without a written prescription.

The medication costs around $125 to $150 for two nasal-spray doses, but it is discounted to $75 for purchase by first-responder agencies, according to the manufacturer, ADAPT Pharma.

The state of New Mexico, the Navajo Nation and Bernalillo and Mora counties are among entities moving forward with litigation against the drugmakers.