NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Mayor LaToya Cantrell announced Thursday (Oct. 18) that the City of New Orleans has filed suit against pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors over the opioid crisis. The lawsuit was filed in Civil District Court.
“The opioid epidemic has taken more from our people than even gun violence has. We are taking this step and pursuing litigation because our people have been harmed,” said Cantrell in a news release. “We are going to do everything in our power to insist those who have profited from creating this crisis play a major role in addressing the costs to fix it. Addiction has had a terrible impact on the lives of our residents, and the wraparound services that are so desperately needed come at a cost.”
According to the city, New Orleans had 219 accidental drug-related deaths last year, a jump of 4 percent from the 211 reported in 2016, and a jump of 138 percent from the 92 reported in 2015. More than half of those victims were black, up from 28 percent in 2015. Fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid, was present in 87 of the deaths last year.
The city says opioid sales generate approximately $11 billion in revenue for drug companies but the drug crisis has strained city services, most notably in health and emergency response-related services.
“The opioid mortality rate is higher than deaths from stroke, cancer, gunshot wounds, and nearly every other chronic disease. Our EMS providers are called for overdoses every day. While they give life-saving opioid reversal medications at every opportunity, nearly 1,000 times since the beginning of this year alone, there are many more who cannot be revived, and still more who cannot get long-term help for their addiction,” New Orleans Health Department Director Dr. Jennifer Avegno said. “The availability of drug treatment programs has simply been unable to keep pace with the growing need. Funding for long-term, comprehensive substance abuse treatment is scarce, and options for those who need it most are limited.”