IBERVILLE PARISH, LA (WAFB) - The Iberville Parish Council has filed suit against a number of pharmaceutical companies and their executives in federal court, accusing them of enabling an opioid problem in the region.
The complaint accuses the companies of "over-distribution of prescription opioids," and says the companies "violated a legal duty to conduct their business lawfully and carefully and in a manner that does not allow rampant distribution that exceeds medical need."
The legal filings indicate around 1,800 similar suits have been filed by local municipalities in the nation, although some have been consolidated while an Ohio judge seeks a uniform nationwide solution.
The parish is seeking compensation for "the costs of providing medical treatment and rehabilitation services for patients suffering from opioid-related addiction or disease, costs associated with law enforcement and public safety relating to the opioid epidemic, and costs associated with providing care for children whose parents suffer from opioid-related disability."
“It’s really not about the money. It’s about the safety, welfare, and health of our people.” Iberville parish president J. Mitchell Ourso said in a phone interview with WAFB Tuesday. “It puts a strain on our facilities, whether it’s the sheriff’s budget, the parish budget, coroner’s budget, or Oschner’s budget out here.”
The suit says some of the companies did not effectively detect and report "excessive and unusual" pharmacy orders for prescription opioids, which the plaintiffs say violates U.S. controlled substance law.
"Each distributor made the unlawful and inconsiderable decision to not halt suspicious sales where it had strong reason to believe, or knew, that the prescription drugs were being diverted and not being used for legitimate reasons," the suit reads.
It accuses the companies of subjecting Iberville residents to "grievous harm," including death.
“That morgue is going to stay full and the funeral home business is going to be thriving here (if this is not slowed down),” Ourso said. “We have to realize that we’re all going to die one day... but to rush that up under this epidemic is senseless.”
The complaint has been moved from state courts to the U.S. courts for Louisiana’s middle district because the plaintiffs say federal law addresses their concerns more thoroughly than Louisiana law.