BURKE COUNTY, NC (WBTV) - Government officials in Burke County have filed a federal lawsuit against several drug manufacturers and distributors Thursday because they say the opioid epidemic "is out of control."
County officials say opioid abuse has cost the county millions.
Burke County is joining several other states and counties including Gaston County who have also filed lawsuits against the manufacturers of prescription opioids.
The lawsuit claims the opioid epidemic is "directly related to the increasingly widespread misuse of powerful opioid pain medications." The complaint states that the manufacturers "aggressively" push doctors to prescribe the opioids to patients for "their own corporate profit."
According to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, the state is experiencing an opioid epidemic. The lawsuit states that more than 12,000 North Carolinians died from opioid related overdoes between 1999 to 2016.
In 2015, 1,567 people died due to overdoses in North Carolina, according to the lawsuit.
County officials addressed the 166-page complaint in a press conference at the Burke County office building.
The lawsuit accuses the companies of deceptive practices, fraud and more.
Burke County officials say they are not asking that production of the pills be stopped because there are people who legitimately need them.
What they do want is the companies to come clean with their research into addiction and that more stringent controls on distribution be implemented.
They also ask that Burke County be reimbursed for the expenses it has incurred while dealing with the epidemic.
Agencies from the Sheriff's office to EMS and more have incurred expenses.
County Commissioner Jeff Brittain says it is adding up. "Several hundred thousand dollars in costs by DSS alone."
The lawsuit leaves compensation up to the discretion of the court.
Attorney Ed Powell, who is representing Burke County, says the lawsuit likely will be consolidated with others that have already been filed.
That will place the lawsuit in the hands of a federal court in Ohio.
Powell says the lawsuits are being fast-tracked and a resolution is possible in the next year.