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Albany County Sues Big Pharma Over The National Opioid Crisis

Albany County Executive Dan McCoy
WAMC photo by Dave Lucas
Albany County Executive Dan McCoy

The Albany County Executive is targeting opioid distributors.

County Executive Dan McCoy unveiled details surrounding Albany joining a new federal litigation effort leveled against the distributors of opioids,  companies like Walgreens, CVS and Rite-Aid, for their role in the addiction and overdose epidemic that has gripped the nation.  "...which is alarming to me if you look at this, and we don't talk about it, right? Over a 23-year span there's been a new record number of overdose deaths in the U.S. Reaching a high of 70,000 people in 2017. 70,000. That's like taking the town of Bethlehem and Guilderland, wiping them out, waking up in the morning wondering where all them residents went. Think of it on that. Think about just here in this county alone, take out two towns and that's the amount of people that are dying."

McCoy says the complaint alleges gross negligence in which companies ignored warning signs that an intentional oversupply of opioids were being diverted to the illicit drug market.  In January 2018, Albany County filed a lawsuit alleging pharmaceutical manufacturers knew opioids were dangerously addictive but encouraged doctors and patients to use them anyway.  "The problem I have with CVS and Walgreens - you look at CVS, and I commend them, I think two years ago they got rid of cigarettes through all the pharmacies, it was like a $2 billion dollar decision they made. And you're like 'what corporation can get rid of $2 billion and not go out of business?' It is simple. Because of the drugs they've been pushing at the counter. They're equally responsible, CVS and Walgreens and the rest of them because they're the other part of the front line of defense. They're the ones that are there at the counter knowing that, if you're getting all these prescriptions, what are you doing with them? Because some people are getting so many pills, and you know what happens? It ends up on the black market. It ends up on the street being sold to people that shouldn't be getting them."

A tentative trial date has been set for October.

A CVS spokesman told the Associated Press that the lawsuit is “without merit." Walgreens and Rite Aid officials say they do not comment on pending litigation.

Donald Migliori  with the South Carolina-based Motley Rice Law Firm says these companies have an obligation to monitor the market.   "We're asking that these defendants participate in an end game where at the end of the day, we're asking through our public nuisance claim, we're asking that these defendants actually participate in fixing the problem, not just paying for what they did. And that is the real goal of this litigation."

You can read the lawsuit HERE.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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