Dem candidate Graham says she’d sue Big Pharma over opioid costs

3:06 p.m Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2017 Politics
Democratic candidate for governor Gwen Graham, right, talks with Dr. Barbara Krantz, the director of addiction medicine for Caron Renaissance, in Boca Raton. (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

Democratic candidate Gwen Graham says if she becomes Florida governor she’ll file a lawsuit against pharmaceutical makers to get them to offset the costs of dealing with the opioid crisis.

“To me, we need to do with the opioid crisis what (former Gov.) Lawton Chiles did with the tobacco crisis. We need to be holding the pharmaceutical companies accountable for their role in addicting so many people across the state to opioids,” Graham said Tuesdsay during a visit to the Caron Renaissance addiction treatment center.

In a lawsuit filed in Palm Beach County while Chiles was governor, tobacco companies agreed in 1997 to an $11.3 billion settlement to help pay Florida’s costs of treating smoking-related illnesses.

Graham blamed “excessive advertising” by pharmaceutical companies for an increase in opioid addiction.

During a discussion with Caron personnel, Dr. Barbara Krantz, Caron’s director of addiction treatment, told Graham the increase in opioid addiction began “around the late 1990s (when) we saw more direct consumer advertising for pain medication” as well as physicians’ use of the 1-to-10 pain scale as “the fifth vital sign” for patients.

Graham said that if Florida sues the pharmaceutical industry, “I look forward to a settlement that will be significant enough to help cover the incredible costs of this not only for the patients but for our communities and societies as well….Counties across the state of Florida are being forced to divert resources that could be used for other purposes for their first responders toward dealing with the need to go out and help people that are overdosing.”

The Delray Beach city commission voted in July to sue drug manufacturers for their alleged role in the heroin crisis, becoming the first Florida jurisdiction to do so. Delray Beach says it spent an average of $2,000 per call responding to 690 heroin overdoses last year.

The state of Ohio — whose Republican attorney general, Mike DeWine, served in the U.S. Senate with Graham’s father Bob Graham — filed a lawsuit against drugmakers in May, as did Mississippi in 2015. Chicago and Dayton, Ohio, are among local governments that have sued the pharmaceutical industry.

Palm Beach County has been hit hard by the opioid crisis, which has also made it a stopping point for candidates.

Caron Renaissance, which hosted Graham on Tuesday, also hosted New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in 2015 during his 2016 presidential bid.

Florida Senate Appropriations Chairman Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, visited Palm Beach State College last month for a roundtable discussion on the opioid crisis a few days before launching his campaign for governor