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Florida passes bill to bolster the state’s opioid lawsuits

May 3, 2019

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida’s attorney general would be able to collect information from the state’s prescription drug database to help her sue drugmakers and pharmacies under a bill sent to Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday.

Republican Sen. Tom Lee angrily described the toll of opioid addiction on Florida, from clogged courts to Medicaid costs to the increased strain on police departments. He said Republican Attorney General Ashley Moody’s fight with opioid makers won’t be easy, and the bill will help with her efforts.

“You can imagine with the number of addicts that we have in this state, the hundreds of millions of dollars this state has sucked out of programs that are important to you all,” Lee said before the Senate vote. “To give her the tools that she needs as our attorney general to hold corporations accountable to the extent that they have done wrong is the right thing to do.”

Moody was on the Senate floor for the vote. The bill was one of her top priorities, and one she said will bolster the state’s lawsuits against companies she says are responsible for creating the opioid addiction epidemic. In addition to opioid manufacturers, Florida is also suing Walgreens and CVS, alleging they added to the opioid crisis by overselling painkillers and not taking precautions to stop illegal sales.

“I’m grateful they didn’t send me into battle with one hand tied behind my back,” Moody told reporters after the vote. “It will help us show reckless distribution and the allegations in our complaint are correct.”

The bill would let Moody track sales of opioids. She’ll be able to see the cities, counties and zip codes where the drugs are sold and the patient’s birth year. But patient information will be protected.

Moody said without the bill, gathering the information would have been expensive and possibly taken years.

“Timing is a crucial factor when you are litigating and so it was important for us to get the information,” Moody said. “We lose 17 people a day in Florida and estimates show unless we do something drastic, that’s going to continue to rise.”

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