Falmouth Joins Opioid Litigation

FALMOUTH – The Town of Falmouth has signed on with a growing list of Massachusetts communities in litigation efforts against pharmaceutical companies.

The lawsuits from two legal groups seek to recoup money spent by municipalities to combat the opioid epidemic contending that the companies violated the Controlled Substances Act and were negligent in detecting the risks posed by their medications.

Town Counsel Frank Duffy recently presented the town’s options to selectmen and what work the town would need to do to move forward.

“We are going to have to quantify the impact in our community of responding to the opioid epidemic,” Duffy said, “It probably impacts many departments.”

Duffy says the epidemic effects police, fire and rescue, human services and schools, but may impact other departments as well.

“There’s homelessness that has been documented due to opioid addiction and there are other miscellaneous costs,” Duffy said.

“One of which is that many people with opioid addictions seek refuge in our parks and libraries and other public spaces and it’s a cost of maintaining these public spaces and dealing with the individuals who have the problems.”

One of the premises of the litigation is that between 50 to 80 percent of people who become addicted to opioids start with prescription drugs.

Selectman Sam Patterson says the process of having departments figure outs costs associated with opioid addiction would be beneficial to the town.

“It sounds to me like this could be a valuable exercise that would benefit us even if we don’t win the suit,” Patterson said.

Both legal groups would charge 25 percent fees on any money recovered from the pharmaceutical companies.

Some have expressed concern that there could be unintended consequences of the lawsuit, such as doctors worrying that they’ll be next and, as a result, not providing strong painkillers to patients with a genuine need.

Other Cape towns are looking into participating in the suit as well, with Eastham Selectmen voting in April to join the effort.

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