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San Mateo County Takes On Opioid Distributors

REDWOOD CITY (CBS SF) -- The "Big Three" opioid distributors including San Francisco-based healthcare giant McKesson have created a public nuisance by pumping billions of opioid pills into local communities include San Mateo County, officials claimed in a lawsuit filed Wednesday.

The complaint filed in San Francisco Superior Court by San Mateo County also named Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen.

San Mateo County Counsel John Beiers said the continuing crisis of painkiller abuse demanded that the county file the suit.

"San Mateo County cannot sit by idly as our community is being harmed by the opioid epidemic – a problem that was knowingly created by the distributors who put profits above people," Beiers said in a press release.

It was a concern echoed by David Pine, president of the San Mateo Board of Supervisors. He noted that "there is now a crisis all over California and public officials have to step up to this issue on behalf of their citizens and stop the flood of opioids."

The County alleges in the legal action that the healthcare giants "caused a public health crisis, including costs for excessive prescribing, addiction related treatment costs, law enforcement costs, costs related to deaths, costs related to lost productivity of the work force, and costs related to caring for children born addicted or with addicted parents."

McKesson has yet to comment on the lawsuit.

According to the most recent data available, 97 San Mateo County residents died in 2017 from drug related causes, with 11 deaths directly tied to heroin use and another 26 deaths directly tied to other opioids.

In 2016, San Mateo County saw 61 drug-related deaths, with 11 tied to heroin and 16 tied to other opioids.

Official said the county public health care system has spent millions providing drug treatment, medical care and emergency room visits for the 588 residents that sought care and health officials estimate that thousands more residents are opioid dependent.

"There were 54 opioid-related overdose calls last year but that is just the tip of the iceberg," said Louise Rogers, Health System Chief of San Mateo County.

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