Covington sues drug companies over opioid crisis

COVINGTON, Ky. -- The City of Covington joined hundreds of local governments across the country Tuesday in efforts to recoup the costs of resources used to fight the opioid epidemic from companies that made and sold the drugs.

Covington is suing dozens of prescription drug companies in its federal lawsuit, seeking money the city has spent trying to fix the opioid crisis locally. Hundreds of similar lawsuits from other communities are being overseen by a judge in Cleveland.

David Geiger, the Covington EMS director, said there has been a decrease in overall responses to overdoses, but they're "still seeing a large quantity of runs responding to deal with associated medical issues with this group of individuals who have been suffering with their addiction."

Those medical issues include lifelong consequences like heart infections, Hepatitis and HIV.

"It's a human tragedy at its core," Geiger said.

Covington officials said dealing with the issue has cost the city more than $1 million over the past 10 years. And despite the decrease in overdoses, one out of 10 patient runs for Covington EMS crews is still related to the opioid crisis.

"I purchase twice as much (Narcan) as I do of my next popular medication that we carry on ambulances," Geiger said.

All that Narcan cost $54,000 in just one year.

In the lawsuit, Covington alleges the opioid companies deceptively played down the drugs' addictive nature, creating a vicious cycle.

"Along with taking a toll on them - the patient and their families - it's taking a toll on the providers, on their mental well-being as well as their physical well-being," Geiger said.

Recovering that money from the drug companies would help Covington devote more resources to emergency responses, according to officials.

"It takes money awya from the projects that we'd like to institute but can't, such as requiring mechanical compression devices for cardiac arrest patients to help improve cardiac arrest survival rates," Geiger said.

Kenton and Boone counties have filed similar lawsuits. So have Cincinnati and Hamilton County, Ohio.

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