Dare BOC declares opioid crisis a public nuisance; hires legal counsel

Published 12:40 pm Saturday, April 7, 2018

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On Tuesday, April 3, 2018 Dare’s Board of Commissioners declared the opioid crisis in Dare County a public nuisance and agreed to sign a contract to pursue civil damages against manufacturers and distributors of opioids.

Harold Seagle of Seagle Law, Asheville, presented the case made by a consortium of law firms. The consortium represents 400 clients in 22 states. The client list includes eight American Indian tribes, 28 other North Carolina counties and cities within in the state.

Three of the law firms are from West Virginia, one of the states hardest hit by massive shipments of opioid prescription drugs. Other firms come from Florida, Mississippi and Texas.

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“The litigation focuses on the manufacturers and wholesale distributors and their role in the diversion of millions of prescription opiates into the illicit market which has resulted in opioid addiction, abuse, morbidity and mortality. There is no easy solution and no precedent for such an action against this sector of the industry….The billion dollar industry denies liability,” states the contract.

In his presentation, Seagle said that three primary distributors control 85 percent of the opioid market. Those firms are McKesson Corp., AmerisourceBergen and Cardinal Health.

The legal action propounds that the firms failed to report suspicious orders of opioids to the Drug Enforcement Administration, as required by the Controlled Substances Abuse Act, reported Seagle. The multiple-jurisdiction legal action will take place in federal court.

The Asheville attorney said that the Department of Justice and the Drug Enforcement Administration “have not been able to stem the tide.”

The civil action will seek damages to recover costs expended in addressing the opioid crisis.

The firms involved will advance costs. If the legal action is successful, costs and fees will be taken out of the settlement.

An opioid crisis does exist. People are dying every day from opioid drug overdose.

The official death figure is four people a day in North Carolina.

That figure is the average daily deaths using N.C. State Center for Health Statistics, Vital Statistics-Deaths, 2015-2016.

State Epidemiologist Zack Moore, speaking at a Saving Lives town hall meeting this winter, said the figure is now closer to five persons per day in North Carolina.

Dr. Moore painted a picture of “skyrocketing death” and “astronomical increases.”

Every graph shown by Dr. Moore moved up dramatically starting about 2013. Some graph lines go straight up; others are a slope.

All spelled problems and death.

In Dare County, unintentional medication and drug overdose deaths per 100,000 North Carolina residents is 13.6. That compares to a northeast regional rate of 9.7 and a state rate of 12.2. The figures take a look at unintentional deaths from 2012 through 2016.