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Oneida County exploring legal action regarding opioid epidemic costs

Oneida County is exploring possible legal options regarding the expenses incurred fighting the opioid epidemic locally, Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente announced today.

Posted: Dec. 4, 2017 3:59 PM
Updated: Dec. 4, 2017 6:35 PM

Utica, N.Y. - Oneida County is exploring possible legal options regarding the expenses incurred fighting the opioid epidemic locally, Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente announced today.

Picente says the county has hired the Cherundolo Law Firm; Brindisi, Murad, Brindisi & Perlman; and attorney Robert F. Julian to investigate Oneida County’s legal options, and to determine whether or not pursuing litigation against pharmaceutical companies and other parties would be beneficial.

“The opioid crisis has hit Oneida County extremely hard,” Picente said in a news release. “We have spent millions of dollars to combat the problem through law enforcement, treatment and prevention, and if those efforts have been unfairly impacted by the improper practices of pharmaceutical companies and others, we owe it to the tax payers to leave no stone unturned in recovering any unjustified costs.”

More than a year ago Picente had the county attorney’s office look into the matter, he said, which led to the county deciding last month that they should move forward pursuing legal options.

Picente says that according to the Onondaga County Medical Examiner’s Office, out of the 166 drug- and toxin-related deaths in Oneida County between 2013 and 2016, 56 were heroin-related, 26 were fentanyl-related, 24 were both heroin- and fentanyl-related, and 30 of them were related to other opioids.

Robert F. Julian says the argument against the drug companies is multifaceted but summed it up as follows, "The feeling is that they committed fraud, that essentially they toted a product for long-term use that was really only indicated for short-term use and it addicted people and caused people in many instances to pass away or become dysfunctional."

Louis T. Brindisi summed up the potential action against the drug manufacturers as follows, "The actions against the pharmaceutical companies and against the distributors are based upon the fact that they misled lead doctors through their key opinion leaders saying that these opioids we're not addictive, and they are addictive."

The attornies say they will begin immediately looking into whether it will be beneficial for the county to file lawsuits against the drug manufacturers, but right now they have no timeframe as to how long that decision will take, but they say they may have a better idea of how long in about a month.

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