More Wisconsin counties join suit against big pharmaceutical companies

Twenty more Wisconsin counties have filed lawsuits against big pharmaceutical companies alleging that the businesses engaged in deceptive marketing campaigns to push their products. The counties are asking for money from the companies to pay for an increase in services provided due to the opioid epidemic.

Two-thirds of all counties in Wisconsin have now filed lawsuits against Purdue Pharma, Johnson and Johnson, Endo Health Solutions and their subsidiaries. The movement to file suits against the pharmaceutical companies started just a few months ago at a Wisconsin Counties Association convention.

“We heard about it but it wasn’t something clear to us at that point. It became very clear what was being proposed at the convention,” said Sally Miller, the Trempealeau County board member representing District 3.

From there, the representatives went back to their county board committees with details about how they could join suit in order to receive money for additional opioid epidemic response services.

“There’s been a substantial increase in need for services in terms of consultations, training and hospitalization,” said Jim Bialecki, administrator for Monroe County.

In Trempealeau County, they too have see the affect on law enforcement, the health department and human services.

“There’s very few departments in the county that aren’t being strained by responding,” Miller said.

The counties are working with two law firms based in New York and Milwaukee and are asking for an unspecified amount of money.

“There would be a portion back that would be a direct payback to local governments versus the state keeping everything,” Bialecki said.

For Miller, this isn’t just a financial question but a moral one.

“My position as an elected official has always been that it is my job to be a voice for the people that don’t have a voice,” Miller said.

They’re hoping that if more individual counties could come together to speak out, they’d be more successful that just the one state calling for damages.

“Wisconsin and their counties are not the only ones involved. This is going to be a nation wide effort,” Bialecki said.

While La Crosse County has not yet filed a lawsuit as well, Administrator Steve O’Malley said it will be discussed during an executive committee meeting on Dec.13th.