County commissioners preparing to file suit against drug makers

Any money from verdict would go towards drug-treatment programs

By Stephanie Serna - Reporter

SAN ANTONIO - Bexar County Commissioners are working on filing a lawsuit against the pharmaceutical companies that manufacture pain-killing drugs.

County Judge Nelson Wolff said the impact the drugs have in the community, from treatment to social costs, has increased over the years.

'Opioid Nation: An American Epidemic'

"There is some responsibility within the pharmaceutical industry for fostering a lot of these dangerous drugs on people," Wolff said. "So we may decide to join some other cities and counties in that lawsuit."

Wolff said authorities are hoping the lawsuit will work first as a deterrent.

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"It's a bigger problem today than ever before," the judge said. "The dangers of it, more dangerous chemicals, more dangerous derivatives, so we are trying to do everything we can to warn people about that and to help those that did get addicted."

"The opioid epidemic is definitely a leading health care crisis in the United States," said Lucy Wilkening, assistant professor at the University of Incarnate Word Feik School of Pharmacy, "Opioid-related overdose is the leading cause of death in individuals under 50 now."

Wilkening said that in the medical field, work is being done to try to identify patients who are at an increased risk for overdose. That includes patients with conditions such as asthma and obstructive sleep apnea and patients taking multiple drugs.

"Taking an opioid by itself carries a certain amount of risk for overdose," Wilkening said. "When you are combining opioids with other drugs like Xanax or alcohol, the risk of overdose increased exponentially. One of the common misconceptions with the opioid epidemic is that this is a problem that is relegated to the addiction community and it's not. Half of opioid-related deaths are related to prescription products."

Wolff said other cities and counties have already filed lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies over the cost of addiction.

Wolff said if the county gets a verdict, the money will go to treatment programs for people who have become addicted to these drugs.

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