Phoenix to Pursue Legal Action Against Pharma Companies Over Opioid Epidemic
The next step – a vote of the full City Council – will take place on November 15.
“The opioid epidemic has become the deadliest drug crisis in our nation’s history, and Phoenix is not immune from its tragic impact,” the three officials wrote.
Related: One Week in Arizona: 15 Opioid Deaths, 18 Newborns Addicted
“These companies have put huge profits before telling the truth, and their behavior is directly responsible for stunning rises in opioid addiction that destroys lives, tears apart families and burdens taxpayers at every level,” said Stanton.
“This epidemic impacts those who struggle with addiction, but it also reaches into our neighborhoods by contributing to homelessness, blight and crime; it puts our Police and Fire first responders at risk and we must do more to protect our community,” said Williams.
“We must continue to offer services to those battling addiction, while also exploring ways to better protect our neighborhoods from the increases in transient activity and crime that can be side effects of this crisis – and most importantly to find ways to reduce the impact on our first responders,” said Stark.
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Opioid-related deaths in Arizona are rising quickly and are occurring at a rate nearly double compared to 2016. Last year, 790 Arizonans died from opioid overdoses. But in the last four and a half months alone – from June 15 to Nov. 2 – at least 538 Arizonans have died a suspected opioid-related death. [Source: Arizona Department of Health Services]
Like Arizona, the entire nation is experiencing significant increases in drug-related deaths. “Drug overdose deaths in 2016 most likely exceeded 59,000, the largest annual jump ever recorded in the United States,” and more than 2 million Americans are opioid-dependent. [Source: “Drug Deaths in America Are Rising Faster Than Ever,” Josh Katz, The New York Times, June 5, 2017]
Opioid-related deaths make up nearly half of all drug-related deaths. [Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention]
Full Text of the Letter from Stanton, Williams and Stark
November 7, 2017
200 West Washington Street
Phoenix, AZ 85003
Dear Mr. Zuercher:
The opioid epidemic has become the deadliest drug crisis in our nation’s history, and Phoenix is not immune from its tragic impact. Opioid addiction affects all walks of life in our city, and does not discriminate on the basis of gender, race or socioeconomic background.
Since June 15, at least 538 Arizonans have died a suspected opioid-related death, and there have been more than 2,300 possible opioid overdoses in Maricopa County alone. The rapid rise of opioid use and deaths are a direct result of the pharmaceutical industry’s fraudulent marketing campaign that minimized the risks of opioids. Pharmaceutical companies are making billions while people suffer and families are torn apart, while governments shoulder the burden at every level.
This epidemic has created an incredible strain on the City of Phoenix. Overdoses are so common that every Phoenix Fire Department engine and rescue vehicle carries doses of naloxone, an opioid antidote – and overdoses that require an ambulance trip are more frequent. Police detectives and patrol officers experience additional demands in response to opioid-related calls, and taxpayers are paying additional jail costs. Opioids pose new threats to our neighborhoods, and contribute to the City’s homelessness challenges. Make no mistake: These examples barely scratch the surface of how our community has been affected.
We must urgently take action, and respectfully ask that you place an item on the November 15 Formal Agenda to direct the City Attorney to solicit qualified law firms to represent the City in a legal action against opioid manufacturers and distributors to begin to turn the tide in this national crisis. We believe that resources recovered from this action can better equip first responders and neighborhoods with the tools they need to respond to the crisis, as well as help those who are suffering from addiction themselves.
Greg Stanton, Mayor
Thelda Williams, Councilmember
Debra Stark, Councilmember