The Phelps County Commissioners anxiously awaited Phelps County prosecuting attorney, Brendon Fox's, recommendation on if the county should join the multidistrict litigation against the opioid manufacturers and distributors.
The multidistrict litigation is a unification of Missouri counties as the plaintiffs, and if a settlement is reached the money would go back to the counties, and the law firm the county signs with would be compensated with a contingency fee — county participation is on a contingency basis.
If successful, proceeds from a settlement would be able to be earmarked for prevention programs and other services to help offset the costs being incurred by government agencies responding to the opioid crisis.
A concern raised at the county commission meeting Tuesday, June 19 contemplated how going after the big money players — opioid distributors and manufacturers — will solve the multifaceted problem the county is facing with heroin and opiate addiction and overdoses since the litigation has elected to not go after the physicians prescribing the opioids.
District 1 Commissioner Larry Stratman stated, “It is a huge problem, and it is kind of like the tobacco industry, where we are going after the people that have money, so does that attack the problem?
“Is that really going to help anybody, or does it just hurt big pharma, and big pharma turns around and says now we’ll raise all the rest of our drugs 5 percent to make our money back and we really haven’t solved any of the problems anyway.”
In response, according to Fox, the lawsuit won’t solve the problem, but the tide has been turning in the country for the last few years with the issue discussed more. Thereby, the litigation is going to help bring about the changes the community would like to see through added awareness to the problem no matter the outcome in the massive civil case.
“You know if they go up and they lose we don’t lose anything. If they go up and they win we might get something; I don’t know. It depends how much the settlement is,” said Fox.
The county commission decided to wait until Thursday, June 21 before deciding on whether to join the multidistrict litigation.