The Dunwoody City Council voted unanimously July 22 to join municipalities from across the U.S. in a federal lawsuit against the opioid industry with a trial set for October.
Alabama-based firm Friedman, Dazzio, Zulanas & Bowling will represent the city in the multi-district litigation, in which thousands of cases against the opioid industry were consolidated in December 2017 to be heard in the Northern District of Ohio.
The city of Sandy Springs, DeKalb and Fulton counties and the state of Georgia are also suing the opioid industry.
The lawsuits allege pharmaceutical companies and distributors created a national opioid epidemic by promoting the addictive painkillers through deceptive marketing and overuse of prescription painkillers.
Dunwoody has been considering joining the lawsuit since last year.
The city of Brookhaven has said it has no plans to join a federal lawsuit against the opioid industry.
There is no up-front cost to Dunwoody to be part of the lawsuit, Matt Conn, an attorney from the Alabama firm, told the council. The firm represents municipalities from Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee, he said.
The lawsuit is making claims for past, present and future damages caused by opioid uses, Conn explained. In Dunwoody, police officers use naloxene, an opioid antidote, on people who are overdosing. If the lawsuit is successful, money paid by the defendants could be used to purchase more naloxene, the generic version of Narcan, for Dunwoody and other cities, Conn said.
“This is an epidemic,” Councilmember John Heneghan said. “I’m not looking for the city to be rich or make social change, … but to make sure we have the tools available to save lives. And Narcan has saved lives.”
Sgt. Robert Parsons, spokesperson for the Dunwoody Police Department, said in an email that naloxene costs $75 a kit with two doses in each kit.
The kits are replaced every two years and to date, the police department has spent about $10,125 of the opioid antidote.
Officers have used naloxene on 21 overdose victims since 2015, with only one death reported, Parsons said.
Dunwoody Police recently arrested an alleged drug dealer and charged him with felony murder in the death of a 22-year-old man who police say overdosed in March on heroin laced with fentanyl at an Ashford-Dunwoody Road apartment complex across the street from City Hall.
That is the first known prosecution of an alleged drug dealer for murder in Dunwoody and DeKalb County, officials say, as law enforcement searches for ways to crack down on the opioid epidemic gripping the country and metro Atlanta.