Delray Beach Goes After Big Pharma For Opioid Epidemic

By Victoria Kim 07/27/17

Delray Beach is the first city in Florida to sue Big Pharma for exacerbating the prescription opioid epidemic.

hand holding white prescription bills and a pill bottle

The city of Delray Beach is gearing up to sue Big Pharma for its role in the opioid epidemic. The city in particular has become a haven for the recovery industry—but this "relapse capital" isn't known for sober success stories.

Last year Delray logged a 250% increase in drug overdoses—from 195 in 2015 to 690 in 2016. And already this year, the city recorded 412 ODs—37 of them fatal.

With each OD costing the city about $2,000, according to city officials, drug addiction is a million-dollar problem for this scenic beach town. 

Last Tuesday (July 18) the Delray Beach commission officially set out to file suit against at least eight drug makers including Purdue Pharma and McKesson Corp, the Palm Beach Post reports. Delray Beach is the first city in Florida to sue Big Pharma for exacerbating the prescription opioid epidemic.

"With virtually no help from our federal government and little from our state...cities like ours are now frantically searching for answers for our own population," said Mayor Cary Glickstein. "We're right for turning our eyes to those who are known conspirators in this ongoing atrocity."

Lawyers representing Delray Beach say the companies downplayed the abuse potential of prescription opioids like Vicodin and OxyContin to consumers, and violated state consumer protection, public nuisance, negligence and unjust enrichment laws.

"They went out and said that opioids are less than 1% addictive. That's obviously not true...This is a playbook right out of Big Tobacco," said lawyer Mark J. Dearman.

According to the Sun-Sentinel, the recovery boom began in the city after the housing market collapse, when it became more affordable for sober home operators to purchase property there.

"The irony is what makes Delray so attractive to live and work here are a lot of the same factors for why the recovery industry targeted Delray," says Glickstein.

A Sun-Sentinel investigation found that nearly 70% of ODs in Delray Beach happen within walking distance, or a quarter mile, from a sober living home. Even the city's commissioner Jim Chard has had to deal with finding syringes and individuals overdosing on his property.

"Sober homes have brought this problem to our backyard like nowhere else," says Dearman.

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr