Commission to consider entering opioid suit

Published 3:29 pm Thursday, October 26, 2017

By JOYANNA LOVE/ Senior Staff Writer

Opioid prescriptions are high in Alabama, and addiction to the drug has become a concern to many.

Concerns have increased other prescription drug companies allegedly giving doctors misinformation about the dosage level that could cause addiction.

During a meeting on Oct. 23, Attorney Craig Cleckler presented the Chilton County Commission with information about a recent movement by local governments considering legal action. The discussion was timely as it came at the start of local schools’ observance of Red Ribbon Week, an anti-drug campaign.

“I’m here to discuss the opioid epidemic across our country,” Cleckler said. “Finally, there has started to be some civil litigation. It specifically involves counties and municipalities, who due to some evidences starting to emerge that big pharmacy supplies, not the doctors, … gave the doctors misleading studies about the amount of opioid pain killers that are needed, when they had studies that knew that at that level addiction would occur, and they did it simply for the profit.”

Cleckler said there is a precedent for there being “pretty severe consequences” through litigation if a company knowingly hid information about danger of someone getting hurt from a product.  and did not do anything about it.

“(It is) Counties and municipalities that are having to shoulder the bill of increased crime rates that follow opioid addiction, jailhouse expenses that come with that,” Cleckler said.

Counties have begun to file court claims against companies believed to have purposely provided inaccurate information to doctors.

“This is gaining momentum throughout the U.S.,” Cleckler said.

Cleckler said the law firm he is with was working with a “consortium of attorneys that would be filing these cases.”

He thinks it may not reach a federal level, but could be a state level decision.

Cleckler invited the Chilton County Commission to join those who were filing claims by hiring him to represent them in this issue.

By signing the contingency contract, the county would only have to pay if it won the suit.

Cleckler compared the suit to how tobacco, asbestos or faulty breast implant cases were handled in the past, which provided relief to those who had been impacted and “changed in that area the way our country does business.”

“This is already starting to have great impact on our doctors and our pharmacies on how pain meds are managed and dispensed,” Cleckler said

County Attorney Fletcher Green would not be able to represent the county in this case because of the time commitment involved. However, he would review the contingency contract before the county signs it if they decide to move forward.

A copy of the planned agreement was presented to the Commission, and the Commission has agreed to look at the paperwork and consider moving forward.