WINCHESTER — Frederick County plans to join thousands of U.S. localities that are suing national pharmaceutical companies over America’s opioid epidemic.

The county’s Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 Wednesday night to authorize filing litigation against the manufacturers, distributors and retailers of prescription opioids and other entities involved in the marketing of such products.

The lawsuit will seek to recover damages the county has incurred responding to the opioid crisis — particularly increased public safety and social services costs.

The law firm consortium of Sanford Heisler Sharp LLP, Kaufman Canoles LLP and Cicala Law Firm PLLC will represent the county. These firms are representing more than 60 localities in Virginia, including the City of Winchester, in litigation against opioid manufacturers.

Board of Supervisors Chairman Charles DeHaven Jr., Shawnee District Supervisor Gene Fisher, Stonewall District Supervisor Judith McCann-Slaughter and Opequon District Supervisor Bob Wells voted in favor of a resolution authorizing the litigation. Back Creek District Supervisor Shawn Graber voted against it, saying, “Using drugs and the things that go along with it is a personal decision. It is an unfortunate decision and I had a sister pass away from that decision, so it is personal for me. However, I do not believe that suing the drug companies and the distributors of these pharmaceutical medications is the correct way to go.”

More than 200 people have fatally overdosed in the Northern Shenandoah Valley since 2012.

County Attorney Roderick Williams said no local funds will be spent on the lawsuit. The county will only pay fees to the law firms if the litigation successfully recovers damages. Williams told The Star that the firms will determine how much money the county will seek.

Earlier this month, Winchester filed a suit against 49 pharmaceutical companies, healthcare providers and retailers seeking $50 million in compensatory damages and $17.1 million in punitive damages. The city’s suit claims the companies put profits before people in creating the opioid epidemic.

— Contact Josh Janney at jjanney@winchesterstar.com

(8) comments

Jdk&kdk

So we blame the pharmacical company's yet they send these representatives that work on commission so the more drs they get to get on board about a Pacific drug the more they get paid. I honestly think they should be help accountable these representatives that are trained in taking drs into recommending there drug. Even when they was aware that opioids was addictive they still told drs to keep writing scripts that they are working on a drug that will be time released and the FDA continues to approve these opioids. How does the pharmacical company's know what there representatives are telling drs? The drs trust the representatives and go by what they are telling them. So why are we holding the pharmacical company's liable ? Why are we holding drs responsible cause they are trusting the information given by representatives that make there money based on how much they sell. The middle man needs to be held responsible also. Along with the government who allowed the FDA to keep pushing these drugs saying they was safe. Just like many other drugs that we see on TV that alot of us been taken for years like zantac and Prozac and Xanax and gabepentin??? It's the patient who decides to abuse the drug. They shouldn't be responsible.

Unknown

Calling it a "personal decision" is oversimplifying. Many people become addicted because they were over prescribed opioids by a doctor (who they trust) who was told by the pharmaceutical company that these drugs were harmless. Some kids try opioids because kids just do stupid stuff and somewhere along the line it no longer became a "personal choice" but an addiction and addiction is not a "personal choice." The fact is the public was mislead by the pharmaceutical companies about how addictive and life threatening these drugs truly are .

Conservative

Medicine is used to treat something. Not to be abused. You follow the directions, you'll be fine. If you are too stupid to follow the directions, it's your own stinking fault.

Unknown

Not if the directions themselves are wrong. Doctors were over prescribing and keeping people on the medication for too long which allows their brain chemistry to change and become addicted. At that point it is no longer a choice. The brain thinks it needs the substance for survival.

Jdk&kdk

Your absolutely correct then the patients that are taking them as perscribed are the ones who are suffering for other idiots decisions.

Conservative

Money grab. Plain and simple.

Rattler

I agree with Mr. Graber. Its personal decision .only people making out is the lawyers

Bryan.the.Nuri

I see you have a lot of experience counseling to addicts? Probably about as much as Graber does?

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.