Genesee, Saginaw counties joining 7 other municipalities in opioid lawsuit

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FLINT (WJRT) (12/19/2017) - Genesee and Saginaw counties are joining seven other municipalities from across Michigan in a federal lawsuit against drug companies alleging opioid proliferation.

A press conference is scheduled at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday at 67th District Court in Flint, where Genesee and Saginaw county officials will discuss details of the lawsuit.

The cities of Detroit, Lansing and Escanaba, along with the counties of Macomb, Grand Traverse, Delta and Chippewa also are part of the lawsuit.

The lawsuit demands that pharmaceutical manufacturers be held responsible for pain pills that have led to abuse of heroin and other drugs. It alleges racketeering, aggressive over-promotion, fraudulent claims and reckless production.

Officials say about 175 Americans die every day from opioid use. Genesee County has the 18th highest death rate among the state's 87 counties.

Genesee County Commissioner David Martin said drug companies should be held financially responsible for costs incurred on behalf of taxpayers. That includes costs for treating and combating opioid addictions.

Similar attempts to hold manufacturers and distributors accountable in court haven't been successful so far. Companies being sued argue that doctors have been over-prescribing opioid painkillers or that patients have been misusing the drugs.

According to the Genesee County Board of Commissioners:

-- There are 1.5 opioid prescriptions on average for every person in Genesee County.

-- 194 pills per person are imported into Genesee County, which is nearly two and a half times the national average of 82.

-- Genesee County has the 18th highest death rate of Michigan's 87 counties.

-- Deaths attributed to opioid drug use, both legal and illegal, have increased steadily since 2013.

-- Opioid addictions have been proven to lead into heroin addictions.

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