Gaston County to address lawsuit against opioid distributors

GASTON COUNTY, NC (WBTV) - The Gaston County Board of Commissioners is expected to discuss their decision to file a lawsuit against the manufacturers and distributors of prescription narcotics Monday.

"We are taking this action against the fundamental cause of the opioid crisis – the manufacturers' and distributors' failure to follow well-understood laws surrounding the marketing and distribution of highly addictive narcotics," Gaston County Attorney Charles Moore said.

The complaint claims drug manufacturers have spent millions of dollars on promoting opioids that deny the drugs' risks and overstate their benefits.

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"Opioids are now the most prescribed class of drugs with sales exceeding $8 billion in revenue annually since 2009," county officials say.

The complaint alleges the drug distributors failed to report suspicious orders the government.

There were 57 opioid-related deaths last year, according to the NC Department of Public Health, representing a 375% increase as compared to 1999.

"According to the CDC, in  2016 the number of opioid prescriptions distributed in Gaston County exceeded the total county population, more than every man, woman and child, with an estimated 119 opioid prescriptions dispensed per 100 people which is nearly double the national average of 66.5," attorney Garry Whitaker said.

County officials are expected to address the 160-page complaint in a news conference at the Gaston County Courthouse at 11 a.m.

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