JEFFERSONVILLE, Ind. (WHAS11) -- It's a national crisis that continues to get worse, with the effects of opioid abuse even felt in Kentuckiana.
"In 2016, more people died from an overdose than all the Americans that lost their lives in Vietnam," Jeffersonville City Councilmember Matt Owen, R.-At Large, said. "It's a staggering number and it continues to increase."
Jeffersonville public safety officials say the calls for help relating to opioid abuse has also been increasing each year.
"In 2015, we responded to 1,795," Jeffersonville Fire Chief Eric Hedricks said. "2016 was 2,402. And then year to date, we're at 2,182."
"Just 10 years ago, this wasn't something that was on the front burner that the City of Jeff was dealing with," Mayor Mike Moore, R.-Jeffersonville, said.
Moore announced Wednesday morning the city is in the works of filing a lawsuit against three of the country's largest wholesale drug distributors: AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson Corporation, which according to Moore, control 80 percent of the market for prescription opiates. Moore is charging the companies for failing to meet the requirements of the federal Controlled Substances Act by not monitoring, identifying and reporting suspicious opioid shipments, which he said leads to abuse of prescription pills and can eventually lead to illicit drug use as well.
Jeffersonville Mayor Mike Moore announced Wednesday morning the city will be filing a lawsuit against three of the country's largest wholesale drug distributors: AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson Corporation which Moore says control 80 percent of the market for prescription opiates. Moore says the companies have failed by not monitoring, identifying, and reporting suspicious opioid shipments required under the federal Controlled Substances Act.
"While they've made billions of dollars creating this epidemic, our community is paying the price," Moore said.
"You are victims - we will never fully understand your pain and your experience, but we want you to know that this is another step of enforcement," Jeffersonville Police Chief Kenny Kavanaugh said. "This is another step of action that we're going forward and doing in the City of Jeffersonville today."
City officials claim the opioid crisis affects everyone, including those who may not personally know of anyone suffering from addiction.
"The resources that are provided to you for police and fire protection, they're being impeded by all of these new service runs that are being created," Moore said.
City officials said they are still working on quantifying the damages done by the companies and the cost to the taxpayers. An attorney hired by the city said the lawsuit is expected to be filed in the next few weeks in federal court in the Southern District of Indiana.
According to city officials, Jeffersonville is also working with several other communities in the region that are also pursuing possible litigation against opioid distributors, including New Albany, Kokomo and Muncie, Indiana, as well as Louisville and Cincinnati.
WHAS11 reached out to AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson Corporation.
In a statement emailed to WHAS11, AmerisourceBergen said:
"AmerisourceBergen and other wholesale drug distributors are responsible for getting FDA-approved drugs from pharmaceutical manufacturers to DEA-registered pharmacies, based on prescriptions written by licensed doctors and health care providers. Beyond our reporting and immediate halting of tens of thousands of potentially suspicious orders, we provide daily reports to the DEA that detail the quantity, type, and the receiving pharmacy of every single order of these products that we distribute. Our goal has been – and continues to be – to do everything within our power as a distributor to mitigate the diversion of these drugs without interfering with clinical decisions made by doctors, who interact directly with patients and decide what treatments are most appropriate for their care.
While we are committed to collaborating with other stakeholders – including in Indiana – on ways to combat opioid abuse, we intend to vigorously defend ourselves against this litigation."
McKesson Corporation responded with the following:
McKesson delivers life-saving medicines to millions of Americans each day and is committed to maintaining—and continuously enhancing—strong programs designed to detect and prevent opioid diversion within the pharmaceutical supply chain. We’ve also shared forward-looking policy recommendations with the President’s opioid commission, including offering additional specificity on two of those ideas that we believe can make a meaningful impact on the epidemic.
This complicated, multi-faceted public health crisis cannot be solved by any one participant. It needs to be addressed through a comprehensive approach that includes the doctors, patients, pharmacists, insurance companies, government payers (such as Medicaid and Medicare), distributors, manufacturers, law enforcement and regulators. We remain committed to engaging with all who share our dedication to acting with urgency to address this epidemic and working together to end this national crisis.
Cardinal Health has not yet responded.