Lexington sues drug wholesalers, manufacturers

Lexington this morning took the next step in its war on opioids, filing a lawsuit to hold wholesale drug distributors and manufacturers accountable for dumping opioids into the City, Mayor Jim Gray announced.

Lexington-Fayette is the 35th Kentucky county to file the lawsuit against 10-15 distributors and manufacturers of prescription opioids. (Watch video from news conference.)

“Opioid abuse has taken a serious toll on our City and our citizens through loss of life, financial hardship and increased criminal activity,” Gray said. “Joined by partners across our community, we are fighting back. It’s only right that the drug distributors and manufacturers pay for the serious problems they have caused. This has been declared a national emergency.”

Gray was joined by members of the faith-based community, representatives of Social Service agencies that offer treatment, police officers, firefighters, corrections officers, the Health Department, a parent who lost a child to a drug overdose, and a woman who has turned her life around through substance use disorder treatment.

“All of these people have joined us in fighting the opioid epidemic, which has been very costly for cities across Kentucky, one of the hardest hit states in the nation,” Gray said.

Costs include:

·       About $1 million each year on treatment programs at social service agencies like Chrysalis House, which serves addicted women; at the jail; and at shelters for people who are homeless. Even so, many of the treatment and recovery programs throughout the city maintain waiting lists for admission due to the volume of people seeking services.

·       The growing cost of Narcan. Lexington administered more than twice as much Narcan in 2016, as it did in 2013. The cost of the drug is increasing, as is the number of times the City uses it.

·       About $150,000 a year for the Needle Exchange Program, which has distributed more than 332,000 clean needles, and received more than 281,000 used needles, since it began in September, 2015.

“We have engaged many partners who have used a number of innovative approaches,” Gray said. “Even so, overdose deaths doubled in Lexington between 2013 and 2016. Fayette County ranks second in the state for heroin-related deaths; and second in the state for fentanyl-related deaths. This lawsuit is a logical next step for our community.”

The city has hired experienced law firms including Baron & Budd; Levin, Papantonio, Thomas, Mitchell, Rafferty & Proctor; Greene Ketchum Bailey Farrell & Tweel; Hill, Peterson, Carper, Bee & Deitzler; McHugh Fuller Law Group; and Jessamine County’s Bowling and Johnson, PLLC. 

In addition to recovering its costs, the City hopes to establish a trust fund for prevention and treatment programs.