South Carolina’s high court has appointed a single judge to handle multiple state lawsuits related to opioids.
The state Supreme Court on Thursday assigned Circuit Court Judge Perry Gravely to handle lawsuits from counties against drug manufacturers, distributors, pharmacies and doctors amid a worsening overdose epidemic. The Associated Press first reported the move.
More than 30 South Carolina counties have filed lawsuits so far against various companies or providers. Attorneys say the counties are trying to recover the costs of responding to overdoses and treating victims. Officers in several jurisdictions have also begun carrying overdose reversal medication Narcan because of so many cases.
According to data released Monday, 782 South Carolinians died from prescription overdoses last year. That was a significant increase from 616 deaths in 2016. Health officials and state lawmakers are struggling to contain what has been labeled an epidemic, despite tighter restrictions on prescriptions and a declaration of a “public health emergency” by Gov. Henry McMaster last year.
The state Attorney General’s Office has also gotten involved, suing OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma. The lawsuit filed last year claims the pharmaceutical company falsely downplayed the addiction risks for OxyContin and other opioid drugs.