The City of Philadelphia just took an important step to combat the devastation caused by the destructive opioid epidemic. Today, the City announced that it filed a lawsuit against prescription opioid manufacturers.

For years, opioid manufacturers have engaged in the deceptive marketing of prescription opioids. This practice has been a significant contributor to the unprecedented public health crisis that we face today.

The consequences of this are felt in communities across our city. When the final tally is complete, last year’s number of overdose fatalities is expected to reach 1,200 – a one-third increase over 2016.

The City’s lawsuit, filed in the Philadelphia Common Pleas Court, seeks to halt deceptive marketing practices and cover the treatment costs for residents suffering from opioid addiction.

In addition, the City seeks to recover the costs it has incurred responding to the epidemic.  Those costs include funding for first-responders who treat opioid overdoses, funding of public health and human services programs that treat addicted City residents, increased resources to fund the City’s criminal justice and prison systems, and expenditures to many other City departments and programs affected by the use and abuse of opioids.

According to data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2016, Philadelphia suffered a rate of overdose deaths per-capita that was fourth highest in the nation and higher than any other large city.

The City’s Health Department estimates that one in three adults has in Philadelphia has received a prescription for opioids in the past 12 months and one in seven – or some 168,000 – is currently taking these dangerous drugs.

Dr. Thomas Farley, Philadelphia’s Health Commissioner, has called the opioid epidemic “the largest public health crisis this city has seen in a century.”

Overwhelming scientific evidence has demonstrated that the marketing of opioids to treat chronic pain has been the principal factor driving the opioid addiction epidemic, the multi-year surge in non-prescription, illegal opioid use including the use of heroin, and the rapid spike in opioid-related overdose deaths.

Now, it’s time to hold these opioid manufacturers responsible for their role in this human tragedy.