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New York County Considering Pursuing Litigation for Opioid Epidemic

Oneida County considering legal action against pharmaceutical companies

Oneida County officials reeling from the financial impact of the devastating opioid crisis in Upstate New York have hired three law firms to explore taking legal action against pharmaceutical companies responsible for creating these powerful drugs.

Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente Jr. discussed the potentially-landmark legal case during a recent press conference.  “I think we owe it to the people of this county,” Picente said, according to the Observer-Dispatch. “I think we’d be remiss and lax in our duties if we did not look into every aspect of this epidemic.”

Oneida County has hired three law firms to investigate this legal issue, including Cherundolo Law Firm of Syracuse, New York. The same three law firms were hired in November by the Town of Herkimer, New York, which is also looking into pursuing legal action against opioid manufacturers and distributors nationwide.

In an interview with the Observer-Dispatch, attorney John Cherundolo noted pharmaceutical companies encouraging doctors to prescribe opioids for longer than necessary. “In the beginning, Big Pharma lied,” Cherundolo said. “They particularly went on a course of marketing to entice doctors to use these medications when they were geared for short-term use and they made them promises that they were non-addictive and safe to use for long-term use. But 80 percent of people who end up going to heroin come from prescription medications. It’s a long-term thing that never stops.”

Every day, 91 Americans die from an opioid overdose nationwide, according to statistics compiled by the Centers for Disease Control. In New York State, the drug overdoes rate has skyrocketed in recent years, including a 20.4 percent increase between 2014 and 2015, according to CDC drug overdose statistics. Between 2013 and 2016, there were 166 drug-related deaths in Oneida County, N.Y., officials said, according to the Observer-Dispatch.