Last week, Weber County joined ten other Utah counties to file a lawsuit against opioid distributing and manufacturing companies after claims of false advertising for commonly used pain medications.
For Weber County Commissioner James Ebert, he says he’s seen the physical and behavioral health impacts of Utah’s opioid epidemic.
“This epidemic is from East Coast to West Coast, from north to south. It’s not something that’s specific to a race or religion. It crosses all boundaries,” he said.
Utah ranks seventh highest in the nation for opioid abuse and death, with Weber County having a higher-than-normal rate of usage in the state. Weber County officials are filing suit because of the high cost opioid addiction is having on the community.
“There’s a cost for addiction and it comes in various forms. There’s a cost to families and to communities. There’s financial costs to the individuals. The costs for treatment is very, very expensive,” Ebert said.
Though the FDA approves opioid usage for short-term pain management, Ebert says opioid companies are advocating for long-term usage, which may result in high rates of addiction.
“We don’t want any patients to think that we are in some way trying to take some type of pain management tool off of the shelf," he said. "We just want to make sure that it's marketed and that the information is given to the doctor is accurate and doesn’t create more problems for the patient into the future."
Any money the county receives from the lawsuit will be put back into the community by providing treatment for individuals with addiction and strengthening the overall infrastructure of the county.