13 Investigates


Clark County sues pharmaceuticals over addiction epidemic

Officials: local government at a breaking point
Posted at 6:00 PM, Dec 06, 2017
and last updated 2018-11-21 16:56:36-05

Every nine minutes an American dies from a drug overdose prompting the U.S. Attorney General to call the opioid epidemic "...the worst drug crisis in American history."

Besides the devastating loss of human life there's a massive financial burden that impacts every Las Vegas taxpayer.

Contact 13 shows how Clark County officials say they've had enough 

The Clark County's District Attorney is suing some of the pharmaceutical giants that make prescription pain pills.  The lawsuit alleges deceptive marketing that downplayed the deadly dangers of those powerful medications.  And though the addiction epidemic may not directly impact your family, according to the lawsuit, everyone pays.  

County officials argue that local governments and the community services they provide have been strained to the breaking point. Public sector bears the cost while private sector makes the profit.

The lawsuit lays out how Clark County taxpayers are forced to take on the problems of addiction through court and social services, law enforcement and the coroner's office; costs associated with fire departments and hospitals too. 

The county accuses big pharma of using deceptive means to convince doctors and patients that pain pills are safe allowing them to reap billions of dollars in "...one of the biggest pharmaceutical marketing campaigns in history."

"The reason we feel they should be accountable is because people have been given misinformation or no information," says County Commissioner Steve Sisolak. "They've been misled as of exactly the effects of these opioids. People have been hooked on this. A lot of our vulnerable population has been hooked on this."

County officials hope to recoup some of the millions of public dollars spent responding to the fallout from drug addiction. 

In the meantime, to keep this tragedy in perspective, according to the lawsuit the CDC says the overdose death toll was over half a million from 2000 through 2015.  That's more than eight times the number of U.S. soldiers killed in the Vietnam War.   

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