Horry County is taking the war on pharmaceutical drug makers to court.
The county announced plans to team up with Marion County, which filed a lawsuit in January claiming that Cardinal Health, AmerisourceBergen Drug Corp., and McKesson Corp. have directly caused South Carolina's opioid epidemic. The lawsuit says the companies filled illegal orders of the drugs and turned a blind eye to red flags that should have raised suspicions.
In addition to stemming the steady flow of opioids into the counties, attorneys say they hope to force the companies to pay the myriad costs of fighting the epidemic.
Police spend increasing amounts of time and resources dealing with the results of the epidemic, from investigating crimes committed to pay for drug habits to responding to overdose incidents. The crisis also drains the resources of health care systems that must deal with not only the overdoses but also the poor health of people struggling with addiction.
Horry County Overdoses, Drug Charges, and Child Neglect
In Horry County, the human toll is clear in news reports almost every day. Last week, a 24-year-old woman was charged with child neglect after she gave birth to a child who tested positive for opioids.
A week earlier, a baby was found lying near heroin residue after her parents overdosed in their home. The baby's mother died.
Last month, the state took custody of a woman's children after her daughter found her overdosed on heroin in the bathroom of their Myrtle Beach home.
On the national level, Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen has suggested that opioid addiction may be partly to blame for the decrease in working-age men who hold down a job.
SC and Horry County Opioid-Related Deaths
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were more than 40,000 opioid-related deaths in the United States in 2016 - five times more than there were in 1999.
South Carolina has been hit particularly hard by the crisis, and statistics from the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) show that Horry County had more overdose deaths than any other county in the state in 2016.
Consequences for Doctors, Patients, and Addicts
As federal and state officials crack down, doctors have become nervous about prescribing opioids, even to patients who have been using them for years, and patients have become worried about seeking a prescription.
For people who genuinely need the drugs, this can mean weeks or even years of suffering unnecessary pain. For people who have become addicted, it means their legal supply is cut off, and they often turn to illegal dealers. Sometimes they find that drugs like heroin are easier to get, and cheaper, than the drugs made by pharmaceutical companies.
The consequences in SC and Horry County's courts are that more people are charged with drug crimes and face possible prison sentences, and we are seeing more opioid-related child neglect charges like those in the news reports above.
If you have been charged with possession or distribution of opioids or other drugs in Myrtle Beach, call your Horry County criminal defense lawyer at Axelrod and Associates today at (843) 916-9300 or fill out our online contact form to find out how we can help.