New Britain To Sue Opioid Manufacturers

NEW BRITAIN — Joining a growing list of Connecticut communities, New Britain announced Monday that it will sue pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors over the opioid crisis.

There were 35 opioid-related deaths in New Britain last year, the fifth highest in the state.

“Over the last several years, opiates have had a devastating impact on the lives of individuals, their families, and other loved ones right here in our community,” Mayor Erin Stewart said. “These drugs have been abused beyond their original intended use and their misuse has turned into an epidemic affecting all walks of life.”

New Britain isn’t specifying which companies it will sue. The corporation counsel’s office said the actual suit will be filed within several weeks.

Nationally, lawsuits from scores of communities, counties and states have named various major drug manufacturers and distributors, alleging they engaged in deceptive marketing that promoted sales of high-strength painkillers while deliberately understating their addictive potential.

Manufacturers, including Purdue Pharma, which makes OxyContin, have consistently denied any wrongdoing. Purdue Parma notes its products are approved by the Federal Drug Administration.

New Britain has hired Colchester-based Scott & Scott LLP on a contingency basis, meaning the firm will charge no fees but will collect a substantial part of any settlement. Just last month, the city of Paterson, N.J., retained the same firm for an opioid lawsuit on the same terms.

The state medical examiner reports 917 people in Connecticut died from drug overdoses in 2016, up 25 percent from just a year earlier. In the city, emergency responders have recorded an 81 percent increase in their administration of Narcan for opioid overdoses between May of 2014 and April of 2017.

Stewart said the city wants to recoup the costs that opioid addiction has put on its human services and public safety budgets.

“Our ambulance crews respond to this crisis nearly every day,” said Bruce Baxter, head of New Britain Emergency Medical Services.

“The abuse of opiates is the serial killer of our time,” Police Chief James Wardwell said. “I have served this city for nearly 24 years and have never seen so much death caused by any other single source.”

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