BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Hagerstown — a community saturated with opioids but drained of resources — prepares to go head-to-head with big drug companies.
On Tuesday, the city became the latest in a growing list of 200 communities nationwide hoping to make pharmaceutical companies pay for the opioid crisis that kills more than 100 people every day.
The epidemic is draining first responders’ resources across western Maryland.
Hagerstown is one of thousands of communities struggling to get a grip on the opioid crisis. They are already outpacing overdose deaths from last year, and say they’re suing to get their city back.
The city of Hagerstown declared Tuesday, it’s suing major drug companies for peddling and pumping mass amounts of powerful painkillers into the community.
“It’s draining resources at a rate faster than we can provide resources to deal with the problem,” said Hagerstown Fire Chief Steve Lohr.
Leading the city’s push against pills is Councilwoman Emily Keller, whose best friend died from an overdose.
“It’s well documented that it’s affecting our country, but here specifically in western Maryland, we are getting hammered,” Keller said. “And they played such a big role in this epidemic and it’s time they start paying for it.”
Hagerstown claims the pharmaceutical companies failed to check on suspicious orders, and the drugs are now being over-prescribed.
“The CDC statistics on western Maryland are that for every one person walking the street, that person has at least one opioid prescription,” said A.J. Serafini, with Poole Law Group.
Only a handful of Maryland cities and counties have filed lawsuits like this, but the crisis could get worse still.
“I don’t think we’ve peaked yet,” Keller added. “And that’s the terrifying part in it.”
It could be 30 to 45 days until the lawsuit is filed. Attorneys are handling case expenses and will only be paid if they win the case.
Baltimore City and Baltimore County, among others, have filed similar lawsuits.
Each suit seeks unspecified monetary damages.