Virginia Beach sues drug companies over opioid crisis

Joining a growing list of counties and cities in Virginia, the city of Virginia Beach filed a lawsuit today against the drug companies it claims are responsible for the opioid epidemic gripping the state.

The city follows in the footsteps of more than a dozen other Virginia localities, mostly in the southwestern part of the state. The lawsuit will likely be included in the multi-district litigation moving forward in the Northern District of Ohio, according to a Virginia Beach news release.

The municipalities claim that the opioid manufacturers and distributors pushed prescription opioids onto doctors and directly to consumers as powerful painkillers, while downplaying how addictive they are. Eighty percent of those who use heroin reported first using prescription painkillers, according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse.

Through the lawsuits, the counties and cities seek to recover the financial losses stemming from the opioid epidemic, which last year killed 1,229 people in Virginia.

Their claims are similar to those that Virginia’s Attorney General Mark Herring alleged in a similar lawsuit specifically against Purdue Pharma.

In 2016, there were 263 opioid-related overdoses in Virginia Beach, causing 54 deaths, according to a news release from the city. In 2017, the city’s police department identified 261 overdoses, with at least 60 resulting in death.

“This lawsuit is a long-needed action designed to hold accountable the companies responsible for dumping millions of dollars’ worth of prescription opiates into our community,” Virginia Beach Mayor Louis Jones said in a statement. “Ending this crisis is going to take a major collective effort. Part of that effort must include accountability for the for-profit companies that fueled this epidemic.”

The other cities and counties that have filed lawsuits include Dickenson, Bland, Carroll, Grayson, Smyth, Pulaski, Russell, Scott, Tazewell, Washington, Wythe counties, as well as Bristol and Alexandria.