Kingston, N.Y. – After consultation and agreement with the leadership of the Ulster County Legislature, Ulster County Executive Mike Hein has directed the County Attorney to commence litigation against major pharmaceutical companies due to their deceptive and aggressive marketing, and other actions that have fueled the national opioid crisis and affected Ulster County’s residents.
“The actions of these multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical companies have had a disgraceful negative impact on our entire nation; and at the local level they have harmed our medical system, the county’s finances and, worst of all, the health and well-being of many Ulster County residents,” said Ulster County Executive Mike Hein. “I have been to far too many wakes and funerals with grieving families as they suffer the loss of their children to overdoses, and I am pleased that counties across America are standing up to these companies who are preying on our citizens. Even in the face of our continued fight to mandate drug take-backs at pharmacies, the activities of pharmaceutical companies have continued to contribute to spikes in opioid addiction and medical costs, as well as overdose deaths and untold pain and suffering inflicted on Ulster County families, all while they have unconscionably reaped billions of dollars in profits at the expense of the public’s health. It is time they are held accountable.”
Chairman of the Ulster County Legislator Ken Ronk
“For years Ulster County has been on the forefront of the battle against opiate abuse in our community. An example of this effort is UCAN which brought together volunteers, grieving mothers, and professionals and recommended the creation of the Family Advocate position helping families navigate the often murky waters of recovery services, but we can always do more, said Chairman of the Ulster County Legislature Ken Ronk. “I applaud County Executive Hein for taking this important step in the fight for our children and families, and I look forward to working with him to choose the best path forward for the people of Ulster County in this litigation.”
Ulster County Legislator Hector Rodriguez
“The large drug companies have been profiteering while more and more of our residents in Ulster County, and indeed across the nation, suffer the horrors of addiction,” said Hector Rodriguez, Minority Leader of the Ulster County Legislature. “I am proud to join the County Executive as we fight back on behalf of Ulster County and seek to have these drug companies acknowledge the destruction they have caused and take responsibility for it.”
Ulster County Legislator Jonathan Heppner
"We must take every possible action to address the affliction opioid and heroin addiction has caused in our community,” Ulster County Legislator Jonathan Heppner. “That includes seeking justice against these pharmaceutical companies who have knowingly put people in harms way with their deception in order turn a profit. It's important that Ulster County will be taking legal action on behalf of our families and victims. Far too many have suffered because of their corporate greed."
Ulster County Legislator Craig Lopez
“I would like to commend the County Executive for wanting to do everything possible to combat the opioid epidemic that has plagued our county,” said Ulster County Legislator Craig Lopez. “I am a believer in accountability, and whether it is a doctor who over-prescribes, a pharmaceutical company that over-pursues or a law maker that under-legislates, all parties bear some responsibility in the fight against addiction.”
Ulster County Legislator Chris Allen
“This lawsuit sends a powerful message to the pharmaceutical drug companies and to those in the healthcare industry who have facilitated the over-prescribing of opiate-based pain killers, said Ulster County Legislator Chris Allen. “Unfortunately, the depth and severity of withdrawal symptoms from such prescription pain killers leads to addictive behaviors being activated in many of the patients who are prescribed opiate-based pain pills and once the prescriptions run out, they often end up purchasing pain pills on the black market and/or turning to heroin. Our system is broken in that insurance companies are pushed by the pharmaceutical drug companies to pay for expensive pain pills rather than holistic-based treatments which are equally effective at treating pain without the addictive side effects. The ensuing costs to society have been costly on the human level and on the financial level."
Ulster County Legislator Dean Fabiano
“For too long, drug companies have been pushing for the prescription of opiate-based pain medications early in the treatment process,” said Ulster County Legislator Dean Fabiano. “Having a deep and personal experience with addiction affecting my very own family, I have seen the gruesome and horrifying price that far too many families are paying as their loved ones become addicted to these opioids. We have a responsibility to do something to protect families, and I want to thank the County Executive for taking this important step in holding drug companies responsible”
Despite a lack of scientific evidence that supports the use of opioids for long-term pain management, prescriptions for the drugs have risen dramatically since 1999 to 254 million in 2010. In 2012, drug manufacturers made over $8 billion in revenue from opioid sales.