Opioid Epidemic Causes California Counties to Sue Big Pharma

SACRAMENTO -- Thirty California counties, including Sacramento county, are suing pharmaceutical companies for not disclosing key information about the opioids they produce and how destructive opioid use can be.

An attorney with the law firm that filed this suit tells FOX40 this move by local governments is unprecedented. He says California counties are taking a stand for their communities because they know just how important it is.

“Today makes 769 days my son [has] been gone,” said Natasha Butler whose son overdosed on prescription opioids.

For this mother, each one of those days was a struggle to get through.

“Worshipping the lord to ask him to get me through another day that I won't ever hear my son say, ‘hey mom I love you,’” said Butler.

It has been more than two years since Natasha Butler lost her son, Jerome, to an opioid overdose.

She says the 28-year-old thought he was taking Norco. It was actually laced with the dangerous opioid, fentanyl.

“We're all dealing with messed up emotions because he was the best one of our family,” said Butler.

Today, Butler feels a small sense of relief after Sacramento county joined 29 other counties in California in a lawsuit to hold some of the nation's largest drug companies responsible for the opioid epidemic.

“They need to pursue it as hard as they can pursue,” said Butler.

The lawsuit filed by Baron and Budd goes after manufacturers, claiming their misinformation downplayed how addictive opioids can be and distributors for failing to report, monitor and identify suspicious opioid shipments to pharmacies.

Local emergency room doctor, Aimee Moulin, knows all too well how widespread the epidemic is.

Dr. Moulin said doctors “see patients with substance use disorder all the time. We’re actually starting medications to treat that opioid use disorder in the emergency department.”

The lawsuit wants companies to repay taxpayer dollars spent on county resources that responded to the crisis.

It also looks to create a fund to fix the problems caused by opioids, whether that be with education or rehab programs.

For Natasha Butler, nothing will bring Jerome back or ease the pain of the loss.

“Every day I keep saying to myself, ‘really son, you're not here,’” Butler said.

Butler says the lawsuit is at least a step in the right direction.

The manufacturers and distributors being sued have 21 days to respond to the complaints.