John Mack - Newtown Supervisor
Opioid Lawsuit Survey Comments

Opioid Lawsuit Survey Comments

At the December 12, 2018, public meeting, the Newtown Township Board of Supervisors voted 4 to 1 in favor of authorizing a law firm to file a suit against the manufacturers, promoters, and distributors of synthetic prescription Opioid medications on behalf of Newtown Township (read "Newtown Township Joins Suit Against Opioid Manufacturers and Distributors").

To gauge the opinions of local residents regarding this lawsuit, I hosted an online SURVEY. as of January 24, 2019, 111 responses were collected. Here, I summarize some comments "Pro & Con". To find out percent of respondents in favor vs not in favor, you can take the survey yourself (results to date will be displayed after you take the survey, but no comments) or you can subscribe to my newsletter where the results will be published in the January 26, 2019, issue.

Some Comments in Favor

A total of 7 comments were made by respondents in favor of the lawsuit. Many comments were from Middletown Township residents. The following is just a sampling. One sentiment among respondents was that other entities should also be held accountable:

  • “Physicians that over prescribed should also be held accountable,” said a Middletown Township respondent.

  • “I support it ONLY if the suit includes KVK. I'm fairly certain that a large number of Newtown Residents are not fully aware that KVK is 'manufacturing' their opioids in Newtown Borough on Terry Drive!,” said a Newtown Borough resident.”

  • “As long as Newtown taxpayers are not liable for any fees in the event that the lawsuit is unsuccessful,” said a Newtown Township resident.
NOTE: Newtown Township will NOT incur any expenses related to this suit and it will NOT be charged any attorney fees for filing the action no matter what the outcome. The law firms will work on a 25% contingency basis, meaning that 25% of any fees awarded to Newtown will be retained by the law firms and 75% will go to Newtown.

Other comments were concerned about the young people who have been affected:

  • “Absolutely! We have an epidemic all over Bucks county , wonderful young people taking pills escalating to herion (sic) .. destroying families yes !!!!,” said a Jamison, PA resident.

  • “My son has been directly affected by the opioid epidemic,” said a Middletown resident.

Some Comments Not in Favor

A total of 29 comments were made from respondents who were NOT in favor of the lawsuit. Most of these were from Newtown Township residents. 

  • “This is a frivolous lawsuit, initiated by lawyers for the benefit of lawyers. Shame on Newtown supervisors for biting at this, and jumping on the bandwagon with other towns,” said a Newtown Township resident.

  • “Waste of resources concerns me [see NOTE above]. The manufacturers, with the exception of Purdue, had little to do with misuse by patients or doctors. The potential culprit are the wholesalers and chains to sent huge amounts of opioids into stores and doctor's offices known to be suppliers,” said a Lower Makefield Township resident.

  • “Regardless of my answer, There was nothing in your argument clearly defining the role of the manufacturer/ Marketer in the opioid abuse epidemic- to be more persuasive, please add this,” said a Newtown Township resident [listen to State Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s comments below]. “The manufacturer is a piece of a multifactorial (sic) puzzle that leads to addiction- we need our local healthcare professionals- the gatekeepers to these medications to step-up and commit, we need our manufacturers to put programs in place to ensure education to both HCPs, patients and public, we need parents, guardians, family and friends to speak up and take actions to limit access. We need to take real action as a community, not just put our names on a lawsuit. Big thanks to the Newtown police for already doing their part in supporting Drug Take-Back days!”

  • “To blame drug companies for this epidemic is like blaming them for cancer treatments. We need to look where the real problems lie. Social isolation, mental illness, physical, sexual and/ or emotional abuse etc. this is where it all begins,” said a Newtown Township resident.

  • “This should be the responsibility of State Attorney Generals office,” said another Newtown Township resident.
Speaking at a local the Opioid Community Forum on January 17, 2019, PA State Attorney Josh Shapiro said prescription drugs are providing the “jet fuel driving this crisis” and that is why PA is one of 4 states leading a 41 state investigation of pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors that “I hold responsible for a huge part of this crisis.”

  • “Recent legislation and law suits such as these are making it increasingly difficult for patients to get proper care from their providers,” claims a Newtown Township resident. “This is a huge problem for people suffering from chronic pain. Making their care more difficult and more expensive.”
Some research that I have seen in the medical literature on the effectiveness of opioids.

Take a look at this study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA): "Effect of Opioid vs. Nonopioid Medications on Pain-Related Function in Patients With Chronic Back Pain or Hip or Knee Osteoarthritis Pain". Study conclusions: "Treatment with opioids was not superior to treatment with nonopioid medications (e.g. acetaminophen - Tylenol) for improving pain-related function over 12 months. Results do not support initiation of opioid therapy for moderate to severe chronic back pain or hip or knee osteoarthritis pain." You can access the full abstract here.

Here's another study you that was cited in the survey: Russell K. Portenoy, Opioid Therapy for Chronic Nonmalignant Pain: Current Status, 1 Progress in Pain Res. & Mgmt., 247-287 (H.L. Fields and J.e. Liebeskind eds., 1994). The researchers conclude that the effectiveness of opioids wane over time, requiring increases in doses to achieve pain relief and markedly increasing the risk of significant side effects and addiction.

In this issue of JAMA [JAMA. 2018;320(23):2448-2460. doi:10.1001/jama.2018.18472], Busse and colleagues provide important information on patient outcomes when opioids are used to treat chronic noncancer pain. The findings illustrate that most patients who are prescribed opioids for the treatment of chronic noncancer pain will not benefit from those drugs,” said the researchers. “However, when opioids fail to provide pain relief, a common response by clinicians may be dose escalation rather than reconsidering use of the drug. Given the clear risk of serious harm, opioids should not be continued without clear evidence of a clinically important benefit.

How Will This Help?

Several respondents wondered how any monies awarded Newtown Township would be used to combat the opioid epidemic. “What costs are you trying to recover?,” said a Newtown Township resident. “I support any monies going towards prevention & treatment,” said a Middletown resident who was unsure whether to support the lawsuit or not.

When this came to a vote at a public meeting, I too wondered how the money would used. At that meeting, I said “If the Township were to get some money out of this, small as it might be, I hope that the funds are used to support opioid anti-addiction programs and implement educational programs for the general public and students.” I also noted that Newtown Township’s “24/7” drop drop-off box could be improved by making it a secure, true 24/7 box that does not require a police officer to be called to open the lobby door during off hours and on weekends

Speaking of recovering costs, I will be attending the 111th Annual Convention of the Bucks County Association of Township Officials on Saturday, February 16, 2019. An agenda item of interest to me is an opioid panel of experts that will answer questions about which Township costs may be the result of the opioid epidemic.

Click here to access more information about this panel plus a long list of opioid epidemic costs that may be recoverable from a lawsuit against opioid manufacturers.

Posted on 25 Jan 2019, 01:48 - Category: Opioid Epidemic

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The opinions expressed here are solely those of John Mack and do not represent the opinions of any other person or entity.
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