Lee County joins nationwide opioid lawsuit against big pharma companies

Reporter: Dannielle Garcia
Published: Updated:

Lee County joined a nationwide fight to get major companies to pay for our opioid crisis. Lee Health tells WINK News, opioid overdoses skyrocketed 800 percent between 2013 to 2017.

Nationwide and locally, opioids help people dealing with pain. They can also hook these people, leading to a downward spiral that often ends with death.

Jerry Effler, who is recovering from opioid addiction, told us his wife of 17 years passed away from a drug overdose. Her death made Effler determined never to let prescription drugs get the better of him. However, after he hurt his back, the doctor put him on an opioid and he became addicted.

“I thought I was different,” Effler said. “I had never took them. I had never been on them.”

Dr. Mizyl Damayo, who works in the substance abuse unit at Park Royal Hospital, said even amid the opioid crisis, there is a lack of awareness of what these drugs can do.

“They’re very addictive,” Dr. Damayo said. “Not a lot of patients understand the risk that can come with becoming addicted to the medications after.”

On Tuesday, the Lee County commissioners decided to join the wave of lawsuits against the major pharmaceutical companies, to hold it accountable.

The lawsuit claims the major pharmaceutical companies misrepresented the benefits and downplayed the risks of opioids to doctors and patients.

Richard Wesch, an attorney for Lee County, said it had suffered damages, including increasing emergency services costs and investigations leading to arrests. Wesch attributes the responsibility of those expenditures to the big pharmaceutical companies.

As for Effler, he said he is finally seeking treatment for the first time for one big reason.

“Grandkids,” Effler said.

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