City to sue opioid distributors

The city of Fort Wayne will file a public nuisance lawsuit against opioid distributors in an effort to hold accountable the companies responsible for bringing opiates into the community and making the opioid epidemic possible.

FORT WAYNE, Ind. — The city of Fort Wayne will join a growing list of communities that have filed lawsuits against major opioid distributors. Mayor Tom Henry today announced the city will file a public nuisance lawsuit in an effort to hold the companies responsible for bringing opiates into the community and making the opioid epidemic possible accountable, according to a news release.

The City has hired Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP based in Indianapolis to pursue the lawsuit. The law firm has experience and expertise in high profile cases both for and against large corporations.

Amerisource Bergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson Corporation will be listed in the suit. They are the country’s three largest wholesale drug distributors.

“As far as I’m concerned their primary motivation is not healthcare it’s profit,” said Mayor Henry. “You have to understand that these three companies that I’ve mentioned do over $400 billion a year in business and they supply about 80 percent of the pharmaceuticals that come into these communities.”

Fort Wayne Police Chief Steve Reed said this year at least 90 people have died from overdoses, narcan has been distributed more than 500 times and there have been more than 1300 emergency calls for overdoses.

“We have tens of thousands of dollars which has been spent on response,” said Fort Wayne Fire Chief Eric Lahey. “There are over hundreds of thousands of dollars on incarceration.”

Arrests for narcotics are up 81 percent from last year and drug raids up 53 percent. Officers have seized a thousand times more fentanyl this year. Captain Kevin Hunter, of FWPD’s Vice-Narcotics division, said enforcement alone won’t solve the problem.

“We just need more infrastructure here to deal with that problem,” said Hunter. “Meaning treatment facilities, detox facilities and more options for people who need help.”

Mayor Henry was joined at today’s announcement by Fort Wayne-Allen County Health Commissioner Dr. Deborah McMahan, Fort Wayne Police Chief Steve Reed, Fort Wayne Fire Chief Eric Lahey, and several partner agencies working to address the opioid crisis. Henry is encouraging other communities to sue opiod distributors, also.

“The more cities and more counties that step up and say you are responsible, at least partially for the the problems in our county … the more people that step up the stronger the case,” he said.

In addition to taking legal action, the City, Fort Wayne-Allen County Department of Health and partner agencies will continue efforts to fight the opioid epidemic through proactive rehabilitation and prevention programs.

Funds recovered through a successful lawsuit would be used to assist the community in maximizing resources in overcoming the opioid epidemic through education, treatment and law enforcement initiatives.