Opioid companies face yet another government lawsuit. This time, from Georgia.

By Maggie Lee

Georgia is suing about two dozen entities plus 80 “John Doe” individuals, alleging that those opioid manufacturers and distributors illegally and deceptively marketed their products; and failed to prevent the diversion of powerful, pain-killing, addictive drugs.

Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr, shown here in a September, 2017 file photo, has just announced the state will sue opioid manufacturers. File/Credit: Maggie Lee

Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr, shown here in a September, 2017 file photo, has just announced the state will sue opioid manufacturers. File/Credit: Maggie Lee

“No Georgia community is a stranger to the devastating effects of the opioid crisis,” said Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr in a written statement, announcing the lawsuit.

“We are bringing this lawsuit quite simply to seek justice for the citizens of Georgia. It is imperative that we recover for the widespread damage that has been caused by this epidemic.”

Opioids are a class of drugs that include heroin, but also addictive prescription painkillers like oxycodone. Some folks who start with prescriptions get hooked and do move on to cheaper street drugs, like heroin.

The 114-page complaint was filed in Gwinnett County Superior Count on Thursday.

Georgia joins governments nationwide suing opioid manufacturers and distributors on similar grounds. In 2017, Fulton County also sued dozens of people and entities in the opioid business.

The county argues that out-of-control opioids are fueling addictions that are taxing Grady, the county jail, public drug treatment services and the morgue.

The Fulton case is still underway in federal court and has been consolidated with several other similar cases from across the country.

In Georgia alone, something near 60 cities, counties and public hospital authorities have sued opioid manufactures and distributors in federal court on similar grounds.

Opioid companies’ public responses have varied. An open letter from Purdue Pharma, for example, says they support legislation that would limit initial prescriptions for opioids; and that doctors and pharmacists should consult databases of peoples’ existing opioid prescriptions. Georgia does have such a database, though it’s taken a while to get prescribers fully onboard.

In September, Carr, a Republican, signaled that such a lawsuit might be a real possibility, when his office announced it had selected a law firm to look into opioid investigation and litigation.

In last year’s election for attorney general, Democratic nominee Charlie Bailey said such a suit would be a day-one priority if elected; he also said he’d look into possibilities of criminal investigations.

Barnes Law Group will handle the state’s new litigation on a contingency basis — the lawyers will get paid only if the state recovers money. The firm’s rate is 8 percent, according to Carr’s office.

“This case will likely take some time and be very expensive to litigate. For that reason, we felt it in the best interest of the citizens that we use a contingency fee arrangement,” wrote spokeswoman Katie Byrd.

Maggie Lee is a freelance reporter who's been covering Georgia and metro Atlanta government and politics since 2008.

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