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Salt Lake County plans legal action against opioid makers

SALT LAKE COUNTY – The County Mayor and the District Attorney are announcing they plan to take legal action against the makers of opioid pain medication to combat the rising number of overdose deaths in the state of Utah.

Tennyson Cecchini is one of the many Utahns who died from an opiate overdose.  He passed away in 2015, before anti-opiate drugs like Naloxone were as well-known as they are now.  Like the majority of people who have died from an overdose, he became addicted to pain pills.  His father, Dennis Cecchini, says his son died very shortly after getting treatment for his addiction.  “Four days later, he died on our bathroom floor with my wife and I watching the life leave his body,” he says.

Cecchini says his son’s addiction lasted for ten years, but, insurance companies reportedly declared Tennyson was ready to stop receiving treatment, when he wasn’t.  Cecchini adds, “Once they get off of them, it is the most dangerous time.  All they have to do is use the same amount they thought they were using before, and they’re dead.”

District Attorney Sim Gill says by 2014, an average of six people were dying in Utah every week from an overdose.  “During 1999 to 2007, deaths in Utah attributed to poisoning by prescription pain medication increased nearly 600 percent,” according to Gill

Gill believes opioid makers knew the long term risks of their medicines, but marketed their pills in deceptive ways, like saying they were safe for chronic pain treatment, adding, “One of my favorites here is, ‘Opiates are rarely addictive if taken long-term.”

Gill says other states have also begun to take legal action against pharmaceutical companies who make opioid pain medication, but, they haven’t decided if Salt Lake County will join those efforts.  He also says they don’t know which specific drug makers they’ll go after first, or how much they’ll sue for.

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