Macomb County cities suing opioid manufacturers, distributors and providers

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Three cities in Macomb County are taking the opioid fight to the courts.

Warren, Sterling Heights and Harrison Township are all filing separate but similar lawsuits against manufacturers, prescribers and distributors of opioids, seeking financial compensation.

"The drug manufacturers who are profiting off of this disease have to be held accountable," said Michael Taylor, mayor of Sterling Heights.

Joined by several public officials and attorneys, the joint announcement came as the nation enters a new stage of the opioid epidemic.

"It's ridiculous, what's going on isn't right and our complaint over 600 paragraphs details the conspiracy," said another speaker, "the abuse that has gone on in the industry."

Officials are trying to place a price tag on the damage done to their communities. However, quantifying that number won't be easy. There's a lot to consider.

"Think of the fire runs, the EMS runs that we make every day, the overdoses, the expenses of narcan, and that's just on the medical side of the equation," said Sterling Heights City Manager Mark Vanderpool. "Then think of the court systems."

The lawsuit stretches the entire ladder of cradle to grave for opioid pills. They include:

  • Manufacturers like Purdue and Johnson and Johnson
  • Distributors like Cardinal Health
  • Prescribers like Pain Center USA in Warren

That last one, Pain Center USA, is already under federal investigation. In a particularly indicting case, one physician named Dr. Rajendra Bothra is accused of cheating Medicare, Medicaid and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan for $464 million.

Along with at least five other doctors, Bothra is accused of prescribing more than 13 million schedule 2 opioids.

"They should not be prescribed for a sprained ankle, they should not be prescribed for a sore back," said Christopher Dore, an attorney with the Edelson law firm. "These are not they type of drugs you can take once, and you can start having the addictive qualities of them."

While the lawsuits don't specify how much money the cities are after, the officials are in accordance the money won should go to places where the epidemic has hit hardest.

"These pharmaceutical companies need to be held responsible for this," said Dave Clayton, outreach coordinator for Families Against Narcotics. "I think once this is settled, that these funds should go back to these communities they're devastating."