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Summit County approves resolution to take legal action against opioid manufacturers

Posted at 5:54 PM, Mar 15, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-15 19:56:07-04

SUMMIT COUNTY, Utah – Summit County is moving forward with plans to sue big pharma drug companies for their role in the opioid crisis.

Summit County Attorney Margaret Olson got unanimous approval from the county council to take legal action on their behalf against opioid manufacturers.

“The opioid crisis is a public health crisis," Olson said. "It has been created by the misinformation put out there by manufacturers and distributors, and small communities are left having to deal with the crisis and bear the cost."

Pill makers began flooding the market with prescription painkillers more than two decades ago, and critics say they have not been held accountable. Olson oversees the Drug Court and said she has witnessed the societal and personal toll.

“I've had friends affected," she said. "There are careers that are ruined, families that are destroyed, babies that are born addicted. There’s child neglect.”

According to the Utah Department of Health, 24-30 people die every month in Utah due to an opioid or heroin overdose.

Olson plans to move quickly to recoup some of the costs. She’s working with outside counsel to quantify damages, but says every cent will go toward education, increased services for treatment, and detox.

“One thing to keep in mind is no one is immune," she said. "You can get a broken leg, come home from the hospital with 30 pills or 100 pills and there you are. You're down a road that's very hard to get off of.”

There are a handful of Utah counties — Salt Lake, Cache, Davis, Utah, Washington and Weber — who have passed, or are considering, resolutions to take legal action against Big Pharma, according to the Utah Association of Counties (UAC). Olson believes more counties are lining up as well.