Grayson County Commissioners held a lengthy executive session Tuesday to discuss whether the county should sue pharmaceutical companies over the opioid crisis.
Commissioners ultimately decided they were in favor of suing but tabled the decision about which local law firm should represent the county.
Grayson County Judge Bill Magers said this litigation is a lot like the cases where states sued tobacco companies for the public expenses incurred in treating people for smoking-related health problems.
“I started getting phone calls from attorneys,” Magers said.
Those attorneys were trying to sign the county up for the anticipated litigation. More than 400 federal lawsuits have been brought by governmental agencies throughout the country against pharmaceutical companies. The governments claim that the drug companies flooded their constituents with drugs that the pharmaceutical companies claimed were safe, but which turned out to be highly addictive and in many cases, deadly. Opioids produce morphine-like effects in people and are commonly used for pain relief and anesthesia is medical procedures.
Magers said he told the attorneys that contacted the county that he didn’t think Grayson County was facing the type of problem that some counties in other states are facing with the opioid crisis. He said the attorneys then showed him numbers of people who are struggling with opioid addiction that made him think twice about his take on the matter.
Magers then put the matter before the court and commissioners decided they do want to go forward with something but had a few more questions of the law firms that presented them with information on Tuesday. Those firms included the firms of Sanders, Motley, Young & Gallardo and the Pelley firm in Sherman. Magers said he liked the idea of the county going with a local firm rather than some large firm from a big city.
Though law enforcement in the area has said in the past that opioids are not the problem here that they are in some places in the country, the area did have one doctor who was accused of over prescribing the drugs to the point that some of his patients are alleged to have died from overdosing on them.
Dr. Howard Diamond is awaiting trial in the Eastern District of Texas on those charges. He has pleaded not guilty to all of the charges he faces.
In addition to the conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute charge, Diamond has also been charged with money laundering and abetting, distribution of controlled substances and health care fraud, and aiding and abetting. The charges link Diamond’s prescriptions to the overdose deaths of seven people.
In July last year, the Herald Democrat reported Diamond’s prescribing of opioids outpaced every other Texas doctor save one in 2014, according to data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The multi-count federal indictment Diamond faces said deaths associated with his medical practice occurred in Abilene, McKinney and Sulphur Springs, as well as the Oklahoma cities of Ardmore, Hugo, Idabel and Yukon.
CMS data shows Diamond’s opioid claim count was 11,035 in 2014.
“The claim count is the number of Medicare Part D opioid drug claims, including original prescriptions and refills,” CMS says.
Diamond’s opioid prescriptions ranked 24th in the nation at the time, according to the 2014 CMS data.
Commissioners are expected to discuss the matter more next week.