In what’s being called a landmark case against “big-pharma,” Oklahoma’s Attorney General announced Tuesday they’ll be receiving a more than $200 million settlement from the manufacturers of Oxycontin, in an effort to combat opioid abuse.
Santa Barbara County is also filing lawsuits against several pharmaceutical companies. County officials say the opioid prescription rate, death rate, and emergency room visits due to opioids are greater here than the statewide average.
Micki Walker and LAGS Recovery Centers are on the front lines of combating opioid addiction in Santa Barbara County.
“Living life is a whole lot harder than being a drug addict and we see them at all ages. They come in from 18-70 years old,” said Walker, Recovery Center Administrator.
Walker says not only is the number of people needing their help growing but so is the number of people dying from opioid abuse.
“We’re seeing it’s really difficult to keep them off opioids. It’s probably one of the hardest drugs that there are to manage. We’re seeing a lot of deaths and the deaths have increased in Santa Barbara County,” she said.
A recent agenda letter from the Santa Barbara County Counsel says the number of opioid overdose deaths in 2015 was six times greater than those in 2008.
Walker says it may be because these drugs are easy to get.
“Oxycontin is all over the streets. You don’t have to have a prescribed person, you can buy it off the streets. It’s huge and they’re making it more and more available,” she said.
Santa Barbara County has joined with several other groups suing certain manufacturers and distributors of prescription opioids to try to cut down on the misuse of the drugs across the county.
A county spokesperson tells KSBY the United States Judicial Panel on Multi-District Litigation recently transferred their case to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio for consolidated pretrial proceedings.
“We need to fight this state by state, county by county,” Walker said.
While the opioid epidemic continues, Walker suggests carrying Narcan spray with you so you can help someone out if they are overdosing.
After winning Tuesday’s settlement, the state of Oklahoma is continuing its litigation against other drug makers. They plan to give most of the $270 million settlement to Oklahoma State University to help people recover from addiction.