The Town of Amherst is preparing to file a lawsuit against major opioid manufacturers and distributors. Details are expected to be released later today.
Amherst now joins several other communities across the country that have done the same thing; including Erie County, which filed its own lawsuit against manufacturers in February 2017. The county's lawsuit alleges that drug companies misled doctors and patients into thinking the painkillers were safe while having information that the drugs were very addictive.
The Amherst lawsuit will be the first filed by to town in New York State.
People who have lost loved ones to the opioid epidemic have always felt the medical community was responsible to helping create the opioid crisis. Several have told 7 Eyewitness News that a relative started on the road to addiction after being prescribed narcotic painkillers by a doctor. Often, the addiction moved on to heroin which is cheaper while offering the same sort of effect.
"I think that is one avenue that has to be addressed because of the carelessness," said Becky Barnell. Her son, Colton Lasker, died from opioid-related complications at age 23 in 2016. While she agrees with the lawsuits, Barnell said there are many people who became addicted through experimentation or finding the painkillers in a medicine cabinet.
After her son died, Barnell founded Colton's Journey to Liberation, an organization that talks with schools and helps families dealing with addiction get the information they need.
Barnell said in addition to the lawsuits, she believes there needs to be increased attention on the mental health component of opioid addiction and the stigma that is attached to addiction.
"That's because somebody is hiding it that needs to be talking about it. That secret is killing our kids and our parents," added Barnell.
7 Eyewitness News Reporter Ed Reilly has more in his report.