Carbon County recently filed suit against opioid manufacturers and distributors, and Teton County is considering the idea too. But Wyoming’s attorney general would rather the state take the lead on an opioid lawsuit.
Carbon County Commissioner Leo Chapman said his county has the fourth highest rate of opioid related deaths in the state and would be happy to see the state step in and pursue its own lawsuit.
“People get hooked and they lose their job, they don’t have their income and they get into the hospital. They can’t afford it, they don’t have insurance to back it and we’re footing the bill for it,” he said.
Chapman said the county is paying $6 million in hospital debt and that’s one reason they decided to sue.
But Wyoming Attorney General Peter Michael said the state is better equipped to fight such a lawsuit. He said they already have six attorneys digging through millions of pages of documents, investigating the pharmaceutical company Allergan.
“That’s important to find out the sales practices, what these companies knew, [whether] they were making misrepresentations to doctors and pharmacies about the efficacy and the risk factors with respect to opioids,” he said.
Michael said the state also has access to important witnesses.
“We have the ability to get those key witnesses that have the information about the kind of sales calls they have received and what they were told by marketing representatives or distributors about opioids. So, we have the ability to cover the whole state and gather that information from multiple counties.”
Michael said he should have communicated with counties about opioid lawsuits earlier.
“I guess I take a little bit of the blame that Carbon County, there was little communication—actually, no communication, between us and Carbon County and I wasn’t aware that Carbon County was on the verge of doing that.”
But last week, his office did make a presentation to Teton County in hopes of persuading them not to sue. He said, the commissioners there were receptive.