Augusta City Council to Vote on Joining Lawsuit Against Pharmaceutical Companies

City councilors in Augusta will discuss the potential of joining other counties and municipalities in lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies. The decision will be made on Thursday, and in accordance to Augusta’s agreement with law firms, the city would not have to pay unless the case is won.

The lawsuits revolve around claims that pharmaceutical companies withheld information to doctors and patients about how addictive the drugs prescribed are.

Opioid addiction and drug overdoses are on the rise in Maine. The number of drug overdose deaths rose to record levels last year when they hit 418 deaths. The 11% rise in overdoses from 2016 are attributed to a rise in heroin-related deaths and prescription painkillers. Heroin, painkillers and illicit drugs were responsible for 354 of the 418 deaths in 2017.

The lawsuit alleges that the public has suffered due to drug companies suppressing the risks of opiate addiction.

Augusta, as well as many other parties that have joined the lawsuit, stand to gain money from a settlement if one is reached. County, state and municipal governments have spent considerable public resources to help combat drug addiction in cities.

Augusta could recoup money spent on ambulances using Narcan, overtime spent on police officers and rescue workers that respond to overdose calls and other drug-addiction related costs. Proceeds would additionally be used to help form treatment programs to lower the risk of overdoses in Augusta.

The city would have no financial obligation to law firms involved in the case. If the case is won, law firms would deduct their fees from the funds awarded in a judgment or settlement. Augusta’s City Council will meet on Thursday night at the Augusta City Center to discuss joining the lawsuit.

County commissioners in Kennebec agreed to join the lawsuit last month. Waterville officials also announced that they would