ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Seven more New Mexico counties have filed federal lawsuits against more than two dozen manufacturers and distributors of opioid medications.
Cibola, Valencia, Catron, Sierra, Curry, Lincoln and Socorro counties filed near-identical complaints late last month in U.S. District Court, joining other counties and the Navajo Nation, the Santa Fe New Mexican reports .
The lawsuits are the latest in roughly 2,000 cases that have been brought nationwide.
In 2017, the state attorney general’s office sued major manufacturers and distributors, claiming they exacerbated the drug addiction crisis.
Socorro County Manager Delilah Walsh said the smaller New Mexico counties joined together to have a larger voice in the fight against the opioid epidemic. “The only thing we are sure of is the impact of opioid abuse in our community,” she said.
The lawsuit says “widespread misuse of powerful opioid pain medications” is directly related to aggressive efforts by manufacturers that misrepresented the addictive nature of the pills.
In Socorro County, the consequences of opioid abuse are felt most prominently in jails and schools, Walsh said.
A county survey found 95 percent of jail inmates had some kind of substance-use issue, she said, with many suffering from addiction or self-medicating to cope with mental illness. The majority of inmates face drug-related charges and parole violations, she added, many of which are opioid related.
Other states and Native American tribes have filed their own lawsuits against drug makers, distributors and pharmacy chains.
Attorneys for Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiaries, which are among the companies being sued, have called the lawsuits baseless.
Florida sued Walgreens and CVS last fall, alleging they added to the state and national opioid crisis by overselling painkillers and not taking precautions to stop illegal sales. The Cherokee Nation sued CVS, Walgreens, Walmart and others in 2017.
CVS has argued that it has stringent procedures to determine whether a controlled substance prescription was issued for a legitimate medical purpose before a pharmacist fills it. Walgreens has declined to comment on any of the pending litigation.
Walmart in 2018 said it would take steps aimed at curbing opioid abuse and misuse by restricting initial acute opioid prescriptions to no more than a seven-day supply. It also said it would follow laws in states that require acute opioid prescriptions for less than seven days.
Nationally, a record 48,000 people had deaths linked to opioids in 2017, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.