Brick officials announced Thursday that the township would join a class action lawsuit against opioid manufacturers, making Brick the second local community to file suit against the pharmaceutical industry.
The lawsuit seeks damages related to the cost of managing and fighting the opioid and heroin epidemic, claiming that the manufacturers of opioid medications misrepresented the drugs’ risk to medical providers and patients. Toms River announced last month that they would join the lawsuit.
Mayor John Ducey said the township will retain the national law firm of Motley Rice, LLC to represent the township in the lawsuit. The same firm is representing Toms River. Under the terms of the agreement, the law firm will not receive any payment from the township but will instead take a percentage of any recovery from the drug manufacturers. The township council is expected to approve the agreement at its meeting on Tuesday.
“While we will continue our efforts to attack the heroin problem through treatment and aggressive law enforcement,” said Ducey, “We also will hold the manufacturers accountable for telling doctors and patients that opioids are not addictive. They know that’s not true.”
Drug overdoses in Brick have steadily increased, from 69 in 2014 to 212 in 2016. The number of overdoses so far this year is 92 – significantly down from the same time last year. Township officials credit education programs led by the police department, as well as the Blue HARP program, wherein drug users can turn themselves in without fear of criminal charges and receive immediate treatment. The Brick police department also has an active Drug Enforcement Unit.
“We need to use every option at our disposal to fight this horrific battle,” said Ducey. “I am pleased that Motley Rice will bring its national legal expertise to our town, at no cost to our residents.”