Fort Bend County Judge KP George and the Commissioners Court have authorized the county to join multi-jurisdictional litigation against opioid manufacturers and distributors.

In a statement, George called the lawsuit an “important step in the County’s efforts to address the well-documented opioid epidemic in our entire region and nation.”

Fort Bend County filed a petition last week arguing that pharmaceutical companies and distributors unsafely promoted and sold prescription opioids, despite knowing the dangerous and addictive health effects. Fort Bend will joined in the lawsuit by the City of Houston, as well as Dallas County, Tarrant County, and Travis County, among several other counties.

Just like other parts of the country, opioid dependence has been a significant public health concern in Fort Bend County. Overdoses on drugs like codeine, fentanyl, and morphine claim the lives of approximately four Texans every day. In Fort Bend County, overall drug overdose deaths are estimated to have increased by 71% in the past three years, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We need to confront opioid addiction on all fronts. This lawsuit aims to reduce the risk of opioid dependence in Fort Bend County by addressing one of its root sources: the manufacturers and distributors who dangerously push their products for doctors to prescribe and the public to consume,” George said in a statement.

“This action allows the county seek resources to combat the results of opioid addiction that will undoubtedly, and unfortunately, affect us for years to come.”

Specifically, Fort Bend County’s lawsuit argues that the opioid manufacturers engaged in misleading and false marketing, including downplaying the risk of addiction and claiming that opioid dependence and withdrawal are easily managed. Manufacturers funded and encouraged doctors, professional societies, and patient advocacy groups to spread these falsehoods. Opioid distributors aided manufacturers by oversupplying the Fort Bend market.

The lawsuit will be led by a team made up of The Lanier Law Firm, Reich & Binstock, LLP, and The Law Office of Richard Schechter.

Fort Bend County’s litigation comes as opioid giant, Insys Therapeutics, declared bankruptcy after agreeing to settle with the federal government for $225 million. Last May, Insys founder John Kapoor and four other executives were found guilty by a federal jury for bribing doctors to prescribe its fentanyl-based painkiller. Oxycontin manufacturer Purdue Pharma also recently settled a lawsuit for $270 million for contributing to the opioid epidemic.

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