Northeast Wisconsin Counties to sue big pharma

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MARINETTE and OCONTO CO. (WBAY) - Several counties in Northeast Wisconsin are preparing to battle the big pharmaceutical companies they say brought highly-addictive opioids to their communities with a high cost.

Door, Fond du Lac, Oconto and Sheboygan Counties are in the process of suing several opioid manufacturers, including the makers of Oxycontin, Oxymorphone, Fentanyl and Tramadol.

Counties have to spend manpower figuring out what the epidemic cost them, but not money.

"We will not pay anything for the litigation. The counties are not paying anything,” said Cheryl Mick, Oconto County Corporation Counsel. “The only payment that the attorney's will receive is if they recover. If they fail, and recover nothing, we still will not be paying anything."

County officials tell Action 2 News this epidemic has been a serious financial drain paying for the treatment and sometimes the burial of the addicts, paying for the care of their children and of course paying for all the first responders.

“Police protection, human services and judicial. Because the big pharmas we believe did not totally disclose all information in regards to the hazards of opioids, and hopefully can recoup some of the costs that the taxpayers of Marinette County had to bear,” said Mark Anderson, Marinette County Board Chair.

Marinette County votes November 14th on whether to officially join the lawsuit, which officials say is strikingly similar to one against tobacco manufacturers 20 years ago.

"Same principle as operates with opioids. Where the manufacturers say, 'they're not that addictive, if you get addicted it's not that hard to get off these drugs, they are very good for pain control,'” said Mick. “And none of those things are really proven medically to be true; it's just how they're promoted by the pharmaceutical companies."