On September 6, 2017, Anne Arundel County, Maryland (the Maryland county in which the state capital, Annapolis, is located) announced its intention to pursue legal action against opioid manufacturers, distributors, and local “pill mill” doctors who have contributed to the worsening opioid crisis in Anne Arundel County.
Within the first quarter of 2016, drug and alcohol overdose deaths increased more in Anne Arundel County than in any other Maryland jurisdiction. Anne Arundel County’s opioid prescription rate remains above the national average and is nearly three times higher than in 1999. There were as many opioid-related overdose deaths that occurred in Anne Arundel County within the first three months of 2017 as in the entire year of 2016.
In announcing Anne Arundel County’s plan to sue opioid manufacturers, the County Executive stated, “We need to send a message in one strong, united voice that misleading and deceptive marketing practices and unethical prescribing practices are unacceptable in this County and this Country. Those who have had a hand in this epidemic must be held accountable.”
Anne Arundel County has hired a law firm to research the claims that may be filed against opioid manufacturers and others who are allegedly responsible for the opioid crisis in Anne Arundel County, including claims under the False Claims Act, claims under the Maryland Consumer Protection Act, claims of public nuisance, and other possible claims such as unjust enrichment, fraudulent and negligent misrepresentation, and breach of warranty.
Anne Arundel County police reported 319 opioid overdoses and 30 opioid deaths in Anne Arundel County from January 1, 2017 through April 5, 2017.
Anne Arundel County’s Opioid And Heroin Challenges
The Anne Arundel County Executive stated in his FY2018 Budget Address, “Unfortunately, the statistics remain frightening. Last year, overdoses and fatalities increased almost two and a half fold from the prior year. Overdoses so far this year are up 42 percent. But, there is a bright spot…fatalities are down 14 percent so far this year thanks to the outstanding work of our first responders and medical professionals. Our budget continues to invest in enforcement, treatment, and education to combat opioid abuse. We are doing literally everything we can think of. But…as the statistics make clear, more needs to be done. And the State of Maryland has stepped up to help us in our efforts. The Governor announced recently a state of emergency to free up resources and ordered the establishment of Opioid Intervention Teams, or OITs, at the State and County levels. The State-level OIT will provide overall leadership, and the County-level OIT will succeed our Heroin Action Task Force. As per the Governor’s order, we have also established a Senior Policy Group to provide overall direction on policy. I am pleased to announce that Anne Arundel County was the first jurisdiction to comply fully with the Governor’s order. I believe the formation of the OITs is an important next step in the battle against opioid abuse… a battle we must and will win.”
Heroin: A Growing, Persistent Problem In Anne Arundel County
In its 2015 report, the Anne Arundel County Heroin Action Taskforce reported that “[n]ationally, the number of known heroin users has grown exponentially from 100,000 in 2007 to 700,000 in 2012 and, sadly, over 50 percent of users will be dead before age 50. In Maryland, there were 378 heroin-related deaths in 2012 compared to 245 in 2011. In Anne Arundel County, the Police Department reports more than one heroin overdose per day. In 2014, there were 308 heroin and opioid overdoses in Anne Arundel County, 48 of which were fatal. The number of heroin-related deaths in 2013 in Anne Arundel surpassed several similarsized counties, including Montgomery County (28), and Prince George’s County (25). The alarming increase in heroin use can be traced to a variety of different factors, including: (i) a decrease in the availability of prescription opiate medications because of increased prescriber oversight and law enforcement efforts in recent years; (ii) low cost; (iii) availability and (iv) ease of use. In addition, lethality of the heroin available has increased with the relatively recent appearance of fentanyl, a highly potent opioid, in some of the heroin being sold in the region.”
If you or a loved one suffered injuries (or worse) as a result of opioids or other prescription drugs in Maryland or in another U.S. state, you should promptly seek the legal advice of a drug claim lawyer (opioid claim lawyer) in your state who may investigate your drug claim for you and represent you in a drug case, if appropriate.
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