Jefferson Parish Sheriff Joe Lopinto has added his department's name to the lengthy list of public agencies suing opioid manufacturers to try to recoup some of the surging costs of opioid addiction.
An 88-page federal lawsuit, filed Friday in U.S. District Court in New Orleans, accuses a number of drug manufacturers of profiting from the pain-management drugs and seeks reimbursement for the costs of treating addicts and inmates, providing counseling and helping children who are born addicted or have other problems related to their parents' addiction.
Lopinto's suit seeks damages under federal racketeering statutes, accusing the companies of engaging in a "widespread criminal enterprise through which (they) engaged in a pattern of racketeering activity across state lines."
The filing joins dozens of such suits that have been filed across the state and the country, including in New Orleans, where Mayor LaToya Cantrell recently announced a similar move. Cantrell filed the city's suit in Orleans Parish Civil District Court.
Lopinto declined to comment on the suit beyond what is in the petition. But Jefferson Parish Coroner Gerry Cvitanovich said his office has seen a growing number of opioid-related deaths over several years, something he attributed partly to the proliferation of powerful synthetic opioids.
"We see a lot more dangerous opioids now than we did a few years ago," he said. "The opioids are synthetic fentanyls, and they are very cheap and very powerful."
Lopinto's suit quotes a 2017 report from the President's Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, which noted that since 1999, the number of opioid overdoses nationwide had quadrupled, as had the number of opioid prescriptions.
That report estimated that 142 people die every day in America of opioid overdoses.
Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office deputies carry naloxone, a drug that helps revive people who have overdosed on opioids.