Mich. communities file lawsuit to fight opioid epidemic

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Nine cities and counties in Michigan are joining together ro fight the nation's opioid epidemic. A federal lawsuit is being filed against drugmakers, distributors and retailers in response to the opioid epidemic. 

Authorities held a press conference Tuesday morning to announce the lawsuit. 

Attorney Mark Bernstein says lawsuits have been filed in the cities of Detroit, Escanaba, and Lansing; and in Macomb, Genesee, Saginaw, Delta, Chippewa, Grand Traverse counties. 

"This is just the beginning," he added. 

The lawsuit demands pharmaceutical manufacturers, distributors and pharmacies be held responsible for their role in the record level of opioid drug use, death and cost to local and county governments.

In Macomb County alone, there are over 11,000 opioid prescriptions for every 10,000 residents. Many says that causes addiction - sometimes death.

"Stopping your breathing over the course of seconds to minutes," said Dr. Daniel Spitz, Macomb County Medical Examiner. "Other times it could be prolonged over the course of hours."

Bernstein explained the lawsuit aims to get taxpayers' money back from the opioid manufacturers, and that it asks the court to force these companies to change their policies. 

The suit alleges racketeering, aggressive over promotion, fraudulent claims regarding the safety of prescription opioids and reckless production and distribution of these highly addictive, dangerous substances in the name of soaring profits, amounting to billions of dollars.

"These are not companies selling soap," Bernstein said. "These are highly addictive drugs."

Bernstein said that about 100 people die every day from opioids.

"These were not intended to be used for root canals or soft tissue back injuries," Bernstein said. "There is a high (chance) that these people are going to be addicted."