Bainbridge mulls joining opioid lawsuit

Published 7:43 pm Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Bainbridge City Council had the first of many discussions regarding an opioid litigation suit Tuesday night.

Communities in Georgia have teamed together through law firms to sue pharmaceutical companies that manufacture and sell opioids, claiming that the drugs caused a drain on public resources, such as opioid-specific programs, medication-assisted treatments, addiction programs, law enforcement costs, public hospital needs and neonatal abstinence syndrome.

Several law firms have reached out to Bainbridge concerning this litigation and the opioid crisis. This litigation would be similar to the tobacco litigation almost 10 years ago, except it will be led by the cities, counties and hospital boards instead of the state.

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Opioids include painkillers like OxyContin, Vicodin, Percoset, morphine, heroine, Fentanyl and Carfentanil. These drugs release dopamine, which causes pleasure, relieves pain and slows down breathing. Unfortunately, 91 people die from an opioid overdose every day. Deaths from prescription opioids have more than quadrupled since 1999 and providers in the highest prescribing counties provided six times more opioids than those in the lowest prescribing counties.

The highest prescription rates are in small cities and towns that have more people who are uninsured and unemployed.

According to a presentation to the Bainbridge City Council, between 1,740 and 2,870 babies are born each year that suffer from Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome in Decatur County. Each baby costs $52,856 for their hospital stay and there are more than 520,000 hospitalizations every year.

City Manager Chris Hobby recommended that if the city is to join the lawsuit, it go under the same umbrella as the hospital authority and the Decatur County Board of Commissioners. There will be several different litigation groups, representing different places in the county, so it is better to go in united instead of fracture the system.

Glennie Bench said the Hospital Authority has discussed the situation as well and the hospital CEO will be meeting with the lawyer of the firm suing the opioid manufacturers to discuss it further. The Hospital Authority agreed they would all go in as one entity instead of three separate groups, and plans to vote at their next meeting.

Alan Thomas from the county was recommended by Bruce Kirbo to join in with this firm, and plans to put it to a vote at their next meeting.

While waiting on the county to vote, the city is at a standstill and is tabling the discussion.

The firm handling the litigation suit has had success in several cases already, and Bench believes at their next city meeting Hobby will recommend for them to join the firm in the lawsuit, because it is at no expense to the county and can only help them.