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Flint joins other Michigan cities suing Big Pharma over opioid problems

steve carmody
Michigan Radio

Flint is the latest Michigan city to file a lawsuit against the nation’s largest manufacturers of opioid drugs.

Lawyers for the city filed a 111 page brief in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan on Monday. 

In the complaint, the city accuses Perdue Pharma and dozens of other drug makers, distributors, and marketers of racketeering and other actions related to the city’s opioid problem.

Mayor Karen Weaver compares the effect of opioid addiction in Flint to the city’s water crisis.

Credit steve carmody / Michigan Radio
Michigan Radio
"We’re asking for accountability with the opioids," says Flint Mayor Karen Weaver.

“We stand as a city to hold accountable those that are most responsible for manufacturing, distributing and marketing these dangerous drugs in our community,” Weaver told reporters Tuesday. “We ask for accountability with the water crisis. We’re asking for accountability with the opioids.”

Flint joins Detroit, Grand Rapids, and other cities and counties in Michigan is suing major pharmaceutical companies for damagesrelated to a rising number of opioid related overdoses and other costs.

The pharmaceutical companies declined to comment on opioid lawsuits.

Much like with the city’s water crisis, Flint’s pursuit for accountability through the courts will likely take years. 

Drug companies are engaged in similar lawsuits across the country.   

Credit steve carmody / Michigan Radio
Michigan Radio
“This is personal for all of us, the lawyers too" says C.K. Hoffler, who's law firm also represents other communities suing drug companies over opioid manufacturing, distribution and marketing.

Attorney C.K. Hoffler is part of a team of lawyers representing the city. Her firm is representing communities in Georgia in similar lawsuits.

She admits the legal fight will likely take years and how it will eventually be resolved remains unclear. But Hoffler says it’s a fight worth fighting.

“This is personal for all of us, the lawyers too,” says Hoffler. "Because this is an epidemic of monumental proportions and these companies need to be stopped.”

Robert McCathern is the pastor of Joy Tabernacle Church in Flint. He says opioids, including heroin and fentanyl, are taking toll on his parishioners.

“It took us a while, as it did with the water crisis, to understand what’s causing this,” says McCathern,.“We realized for a long-time we we’re having a crisis… I knew it was not being addressed.”

McCathern is glad to see the lawsuit has been filed.  But he says the community needs to work to help those who are addicted now as the legal process plays out. 

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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