OGDEN — Weber County officials voted to sue prescription drug companies, joining two other Utah counties and more than two dozen states, cities and counties taking similar action in the midst of a national opioid-drug epidemic.
Weber County Commissioner Kerry Gibson said the litigation that will result from last week's action has yet to be determined, but the resolution allows the county to sue on behalf of the public for false advertising, abating a public nuisance and violations of the federal RICO Act and the Utah Pattern of Unlawful Activity Act.
"There is a tremendous amount of momentum here and by counties all across the country in response to the overwhelming costs that counties bear because of the crisis," Gibson said. "Weber has significant impacts and a unique story to tell. We struggle with those from both a budgetary and human perspective. I don't know of anyone who doesn't have a personal connection to someone who has struggled with this type of addiction. It touches all of us."
Weber, Salt Lake and Utah counties now all have passed resolutions to sue prescription drug companies, the Standard-Examiner reported.6 comments on this story
Prescription opioids include morphine, methadone, buprenorphine, hydrocodone and oxycodone. Brand names include Demerol, OxyContin, Percocet, Percodan, Tylox, Vicodin and others. Heroin is an illegal opioid that many pursue after no longer being able to access the more costly prescription opiates.
Eighty percent of heroin users in Utah started off taking prescription opioids, according to opidemic.org.
"About 5 percent of the world's population lives in the U.S. and yet we prescribe about 95 percent of all opioids. This is a marketing problem," Gibson said.
Almost 215 million opioid prescriptions were filled in the U.S. in 2016, and nearly 91 people die nationwide from opioid overdoses each day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.