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Suffolk County Legislature Votes To Sue Drug Makers

Toby Talbot

The Suffolk County Legislature has voted unanimously to hire attorneys and sue drug companies that make opioid-based painkillers.

Legislator William Spencer of Centerport said the lawsuit would get drug companies to reimburse the county for the higher costs of health care and police services related to the opioid abuse epidemic.

“We’re saying that, you know, you’ve got to help us be part of the solution," he said. "We need more resources. Municipalities are struggling.”

Spencer said two counties in California and the City of Chicago have filed similar lawsuits in Federal court against drug companies Purdue Pharma L.P., The Purdue Frederick Company, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries LTD., Cephalon Inc., Johnson and Johnson, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Endo Health Solutions Inc., and Actavis PLC. In the Chicago suit, all companies other than the Stamford, Connecticut-based manufacturer of OxyContin, Purdue, were dismissed from the suit.

A spokesperson from Purdue said the company has trained 400 law enforcement officers and health care providers in Suffolk to combat opioid abuse. Purdue said it’s a shame the county didn’t choose a more collaborative approach.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone has to sign the bill before attorneys can prepare a case for state court.

The resolution to sue opioid manufacturers was sponsored by Democrats Robert Calarco, Kara Hahn, Sarah Anker, and DuWayne Gregory.

The Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence says from 2011 to 2014, the number of people seeking addiction help each year has doubled from about 5,000 to more than 10,000. The council says about 80 percent of clients struggle with opiate addiction.

Cassandra Basler, a former senior editor at WSHU, came to the station by way of Columbia Journalism School in New York City. When she's not reporting on wealth and poverty, she's writing about food and family.