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Kalamazoo County Might Sue Opioid Drug Makers

Patrick Sison
AP Photo

Kalamazoo County Board members have expressed interest in joining a lawsuit against manufacturers of opioid drugs. Local governments around the country are seeking damages for the costs of fighting the opioid epidemic. Those governments have also sought to change drug companies’ marketing of opioids.

On Tuesday, Democrats on the county commission indicated their support for joining the lawsuit. Commissioner Julie Rogers says drug makers have misled doctors and patients about the risk of opioid addiction. Rogers says she hopes the lawsuit will change companies’ practices.

“To make sure that they are up front with any kind of potential for addiction, to try to turn this tide,” she said.

But Republicans on the Board expressed doubt that the case would make a difference in the opioid crisis. Commissioner Roger Tuinier suggested that addiction is a matter of, as he put it, “personal responsibility.”

“The bottom line is, the person that takes it is responsible for what they take,” he said.

More than 45 local units in Michigan have filed claims against opioid makers. Kalamazoo’s board has not said when it will decide whether to join them.

Rogers told the Board that Pfizer Inc. is not a target of the litigation.

"We are not talking about Pfizer. Pfizer largely does not make opioids," she said.

She named three firms - Cardinal Health, AmerisourceBergen and McKesson Corporation - that because of their involvement with the opioid industry would be of interest in a lawsuit.

Sehvilla Mann joined WMUK’s news team in January 2014 as a reporter on the local government and education beats. Before that she covered a variety of topics, including environmental issues, for Bloomington, Indiana NPR and PBS affiliates WFIU and WTIU. She’s also written and produced stories for the Pacifica Network and WYSO Public Radio in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Sehvilla holds a B.A. in French from Earlham College and an M.A. in journalism from Indiana University.
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