Mayor Greg Stanton and City Councilmembers Thelda Williams and Debra Stark today began the process for the City of Phoenix to take legal action against pharmaceutical companies and distributors whose fraudulent marketing helped to create the national opioid epidemic.
The three officials sent a letter to City Manager Ed Zuercher asking that he place an item for consideration at the next City Council Formal Meeting to engage law firms “to represent the City in a legal action against opioid manufacturers and distributors to begin to turn the tide in this national crisis.” The full letter is below and attached.
The next step – a vote of the full City Council – will take place on November 15.
“The opioid epidemic has become the deadliest drug crisis in our nation’s history, and Phoenix is not immune from its tragic impact,” the three officials wrote.
“These companies have put huge profits before telling the truth, and their behavior is directly responsible for stunning rises in opioid addiction that destroys lives, tears apart families and burdens taxpayers at every level,” said Stanton.
“This epidemic impacts those who struggle with addiction, but it also reaches into our neighborhoods by contributing to homelessness, blight and crime; it puts our Police and Fire first responders at risk and we must do more to protect our community,” said Williams.
“We must continue to offer services to those battling addiction, while also exploring ways to better protect our neighborhoods from the increases in transient activity and crime that can be side effects of this crisis – and most importantly to find ways to reduce the impact on our first responders,” said Stark.
Opioid-related deaths in Arizona are rising quickly and are occurring at a rate nearly double compared to 2016. Last year, 790 Arizonans died from opioid overdoses. But in the last four and a half months alone – from June 15 to Nov. 2 – at least 538 Arizonans have died a suspected opioid-related death. [Source: Arizona Department of Health Services]
Like Arizona, the entire nation is experiencing significant increases in drug-related deaths. “Drug overdose deaths in 2016 most likely exceeded 59,000, the largest annual jump ever recorded in the United States,” and more than 2 million Americans are opioid-dependent. [Source: “Drug Deaths in America Are Rising Faster Than Ever,” Josh Katz, The New York Times, June 5, 2017]
Opioid-related deaths make up nearly half of all drug-related deaths.