SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Utah News) - Salt Lake County leaders are expanding the fight against the opioid crisis from the streets to the courtrooms. They're preparing to file a lawsuit against the big pharmaceutical companies that manufacture, distribute and market prescription pain pills.
At a news conference Monday they said they've attacked this problem from the demand side and now they're going after the suppliers as well, even comparing pharmaceutical makers to illegal drug cartels.
"We've got to go after the supply side," Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams said. "We have to target those companies. If 90 percent of people arrested in Operation Rio Grande are heroin users and 80 percent of those people came to it through a prescription drug, we have to go after the distribution and those who are pushing those drugs on our communities."
Statistics show almost one Utahn a day dies from a opioid overdose and 80 percent of heroin users started their path to addiction with prescription pills.
Mayor McAdams, District Attorney Sim Gill and state Representative Greg Hughes said they plan to hold Big Pharma accountable for their contributions to this so called opidemic, which claimed Dennis Checchini's son in 2015.
That's when 33 year old Tennyson Cecchini died from an overdose, just days after being released from 60 days of drug rehab.
"He came home. 4 days later he died on our bathroom floor with my wife and I watching the life leave his body," Dennis told reporters. "I'm not an expert at this opioid epidemic but I am an expert at losing my son and...this disease did not have to reach these proportions that it reached. That Big Pharma had a lot to play in it and it's time for Big Pharma for the treatment to help pay for the treatment that is necessary to help our children stay alive."
County Attorney Sim Gill did not release any details of the civil lawsuit but said specifics of who the County will sue - and for how much - will be finalized in the next few weeks.
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