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County to take on drug companies

Photo by Jimmy McCarthy The Chautauqua County Legislature authorized litigation against major drug manufacturers during Wednesday's meeting in Mayville. The county joins several others that have filed similar lawsuits against drug companies for their alleged role in the opioid epidemic.

MAYVILLE — Chautauqua County is preparing to file a lawsuit against major drug manufacturers for their supposed role in the opioid epidemic.

County legislators unanimously approved a resolution authorizing litigation against drug companies to recover damages during Wednesday’s meeting in Mayville. Chautauqua County joins a list of other counties that have filed similar lawsuits against pharmaceutical manufacturers, including Purdue, Endo and Cephalon, for

See LAWSUIT, Page A5

their supposed role in misleading doctors and people that certain prescription painkillers weren’t addictive.

Damages are being sought amid increased costs incurred by counties and municipalities for social and health services and policing as a result of the opioid epidemic.

“We know what the opioid crisis has done,” said County Executive Vince Horrigan following the meeting. “We know in so many ways prescription drugs are where it started. The cost of this opiate drug epidemic is hitting everyone from municipalities and families to hospitals and doctors.”

The county is choosing to go with a law firm from Suffolk County that’s handling similiar lawsuits. Erie, Niagara, Nassau, Suffolk, Orange and Broome counties have filed litigation.

The county won’t need to supply any money upfront, but they will need to supply data to back their claim. If a settlement is reached, the county would need to pay a percentage to the firm.

Horrigan said he sees the lawsuit playing out similar to litigation against tobacco companies that ultimately led to a settlement. The state Attorney General’s Office joined in after a number of counties filed lawsuits.

“There was a massive settlement,” Horrigan said. “We built the new jail with some of the proceeds. I believe firmly down the road when more comes out on this that there will be some kind of settlement. I wanted to try to recoup some of those costs that the county is experiencing, that families are experiencing along with hospitals and law enforcement.”

Data found within a resolution before legislators depicted 63 opioid overdose emergency department visits and 21 confirmed overdose deaths in 2016 in Chautauqua County.

Christine Schuyler, county public health director, told legislators last week that there’s widespread belief that certain pharmaceutical companies knowingly marketed products as being nonaddictive when they knew compounds within the drugs could lead to abuse.

According to excerpts from the Buffalo Law Journal, counties are alleging that pharmaceutical manufacturers misled doctors and patients into believing that opioid painkillers were not addictive and that “manufacturers aggressively marketed opioid pain relievers despite growing addiction rates.”

In other matters, the legislature approved a public hearing for Sept. 27 at 6:45 p.m. regarding proposed changes to phase one of the North Chautauqua County Water District. Changes are due to the village of Fredonia’s unwillingness to move forward with an interconnect of their water system with the city of Dunkirk’s water system.

As a result, the interconnect is coming out of phase one. A few projects found in phase two are being moved into phase one. They include installation of water main line to the village of Silver Creek; extension of water main line from the town of Dunkirk to Harrington Road; extension of transmission line in Brocton; installation of water master meters for water supplied by the city of Dunkirk; and a new storage tank in Dunkirk. Projects costs aren’t expected to change.

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