Nevada County joins opioid lawsuit, is 1 of 30 California counties involved | TheUnion.com

Nevada County joins opioid lawsuit, is 1 of 30 California counties involved

The Union staff

Nevada County has joined a massive lawsuit against opioid manufacturers and distributors in an attempt to receive compensation for tax dollars spent on fighting the drug epidemic.

The Board of Supervisors recently opted to join about 30 other California counties in the litigation. The suit, filed in federal court, likely will become part of the multi-district litigation in Ohio — a legal action involving over 500 public entities that have filed similar lawsuits, County Counsel Alison Barratt-Green said in an email.

"This litigation is an important tool to help us recover the taxpayer funds currently being used and needed to intervene and respond to this opioid epidemic," said Supervisor Ed Scofield, chairman of the Board of Supervisors, in an email.

Local officials said they have no information on the specific number of Nevada County residents impacted by opioids. However, they point to the California Department of Public Health's Opioid Overdose Surveillance Dashboard, which states the county had an opioid overdose death rate of 9.8 per 100,000 people in 2016. The same year the county saw 17 emergency room visits because of opioids, not including heroin, per 100,000 people.

Prescribing rates for Nevada County in 2016 were 83 per 100 people, significantly higher than the state's rate of 44.8 per 100 people, officials said, referring to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Unfortunately our community, like many others, has clearly suffered negative public health and safety impacts due to this opioid epidemic," said Dr. Ken Cutler, the county's public health officer, in an email.

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Some 10.4 million people live in the 30 California counties that have joined the suit. Other counties involved include Placer, Sutter, Yuba, El Dorado and Sacramento.

The suit claims that several of the nation's biggest drug manufacturers misinformed doctors about the addictiveness and effectiveness of their products. Drugs made by the companies include OxyContin, Percocet and Norco, among others, Barratt-Green said.

"In addition to the wrongdoing by drug manufacturers, the lawsuit asserts that the nation's largest drug distributors/retails failed to monitor, identify and report 'suspicious' opioid shipments to pharmacies, in violation of the federal Controlled Substances Act," Barratt-Green said.

— Staff Writer Alan Riquelmy contributed to this report