The Miami-Dade school board has announced they are suing more than a dozen opioid manufacturers and distributors, citing the millions they have spent dealing with teen prescription drug abuse and the opioid epidemic in teens.
A recent report indicated the Miami-Dade School Board is seeking damages for services it says it was forced to pay for to protect the health and welfare of the individuals served related to opioid over-prescription and addiction. Some of the specific costs mentioned in the lawsuit include training school nurses to recognize and deal with prescription drug abuse, as well as training resource officers and others to handle drug overdoses. Costs the school board also cites include providing mental health services to students and their families and boosting school security as a means of stopping the influx of opioids into schools.
The School Board issued a statement saying that the companies developing and marketing opioids have caused “rampant over-prescription and addiction.” The statement continued saying that the schools have witnessed first-hand the effects of the opioid epidemic in teens.
The lawsuit is almost 300 pages and was recently filed in the Southern District of Florida. It will be transferred to the Northern District of Ohio, along with 2,000 other lawsuits that are currently in litigation against manufacturers of opioids like Purdue Pharma and retailers like Walgreens and CVS.
The lawsuit comes two years after then-Gov. Rick Scott declared the opioid epidemic a public health emergency in the state, and six months after the attorney for the School Board recommended joining the lawsuit.
The Opioid Crisis in Florida Teens
In the United States in 2016, an estimated 3.6% of adolescents and teens between the ages of 12 and 17 reported misusing opioids in the previous year. That number went up significantly among young adults between the ages of 18 and 25, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and the majority of this opioid abuse was linked to prescription opioids and not heroin.
In 2015, 4,235 young people between the ages of 15 and 24 died from a drug overdose, and more than half were attributed to opioids. Nationally for all age groups in 2017, more than 70,000 people died from overdoses, and 68% were related to a prescription or illegal opioid.
In Florida, and especially South Florida, the opioid epidemic affects everyone and not just teens. Nearly 1,700 people died of opioid overdoses in South Florida in 2016, according to Florida opioid statistics. The Miami Herald analyzed data from the Drug Enforcement Agency and found that one Walgreens in Port Richey on its own received an average of 74,706 pills per month, while the city has a population of only 2,831. The number of opioids that were flowing through Florida was second only to California, and from 2006 to 2012 there was an average of 42 pills for every Florida resident.
Other Pharma Lawsuits in Florida
The School Board lawsuit isn’t the only in Florida related to the opioid crisis. In September, a group of 27 Florida hospitals announced they were filing a lawsuit against the manufacturers, distributors, and retailers of opioid drugs. Florida hospitals named the significant financial and operational harm they’ve dealt with as they’ve treated the complications of addiction.
The Florida Attorney General’s Office also filed an action in state court in 2018 against opioid manufacturers and distributors. Specific companies named included Purdue Pharma, Endo Pharmaceuticals and Janssen Pharmaceuticals.
If you are struggling with opioid misuse or addiction, contact The Recovery Village Palm Beach at Baptist Health to find out more about evidence-based addiction treatment programs available to you.
Merchante, Michelle. “The opioid crisis is hurting students, and now the School Board is suing big pharma.” Miami Herald, October 4, 2019. Accessed November 18, 2019.
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. “Opioids and Adolescents.” May 13, 2019. Accessed November 18, 2019.
WLRN. “Sunny Daze: Inside South Florida’s Opioid Crisis.” Accessed November 18, 2019.
P&T Community. “Florida Hospitals File Lawsuit Against Opioid Manufacturers and Distributors.” September 18, 2019. Accessed November 18, 2019.
Florida Office of the Attorney General. “Combating the National Opioid Crisis.” Accessed November 18, 2019.