Southington and Bristol are part of a lawsuit thatâ€™s been filed alleging that pharmaceutical companies have aggressively and fraudulently marketed opioid painkillers since the late 1990s.
That marketing has caused financial hardship for Connecticutâ€™s cities and towns, the suit charges.
The municipalities are seeking compensatory and punitive damages, citing the millions of dollars they spend yearly to combat the opioid crisis, which they maintain is caused by false marketing, according to a press release from the New York law firm Simmons Hanly Conroy.
Bristol decided to join the lawsuit in August 2017.
â€śWhile opioid abuse is a national epidemic, our families, friends and neighborhoods are feeling it locally and personally,â€ť said Mayor Ellen Zoppo-Sassu. â€śWhether it is a heroin addiction or an addiction to painkillers due to chronic pain or injuries, families are facing lost employment, lost wages and exploding health care costs.â€ť
â€śFor the city, this epidemic has added to the workloads of emergency responders for medical emergencies, as well as the fight to crack down on illegal street drugs,â€ť she continued. â€śOur local businesses are also grappling with workforce issues with failed drug tests.â€ť
Southington decided to become one of the plaintiffs last September.
â€śIt says that they doctored the facts and that these opioids were more dangerous than we were led to believe,â€ť Town Manager Mark Sciota said of the lawsuit at the time. â€śSouthington, as a bloc with 20 other municipalities or more, will make a strong force on this.â€ť
The defendants are Connecticut-based Purdue Pharma, Teva Pharmaceuticals, Endo Pharmaceuticals, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Johnson & Johnson and Cephalon.
The lawsuit has been filed in Waterbury Superior Court by the law firms Drubner Hartley & Hellman and Simmons Hanly Conroy.
Many other cities, towns and states have taken part in similar lawsuits in the past year.
In February, the city of Bristol will be naming a group to take on the issues of opioid use and help chart a strategy to reduce the number of overdose deaths in the city. Bristol ranked fourth in the state in deaths by drug overdose in 2016, Zoppo-Sassu said.
â€śWe are pursuing grants as well, because the city needs to take action in the areas of prevention, recovery, response and treatment now, not wait for a longshot class action lawsuit to be settled years from now,â€ť she said.
Anyone interested in volunteering to help the group, should contact the mayorâ€™s office by Feb. 1, she added.
Lorenzo Burgio can be reached at 860-801-5088 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.