Little town, big target

Lynnfield is a little town hoping to bring pharmaceutical companies manufacturing opioid-based drugs to court with a class-action lawsuit.

The town isn’t undertaking its David versus Goliath routine alone: By definition, class-action suits against opioid manufacturers bring together communities intent on fighting the addiction and drug overdose scourge sweeping the nation with a number of goals in mind.

The most obvious goal is to help through legal action to minimize, if not eliminate, the opportunities for high-powered opioid painkillers to lead people down the road to addiction. Another goal is to recover, on the behalf of communities, the municipal costs related to fighting the war against addiction.

The Board of Selectmen gave Lynnfield’s town counsel the green light to retain a Connecticut firm in connection with the class action suit. The board’s interest stems in no small part from the Healthy Lynnfield anti-substance abuse initiative wholeheartedly supported by board members.

Town Counsel Thomas Mullen told selectmen the town has nothing to lose financially-speaking with its decision to challenge drug companies. But what is the so-called upside for Lynnfield and any other community using the courts to fight addiction?

As in any other community across America, compassionate people in Lynnfield know other people — young and old from all ethnic and socioeconomic classes — who are in addiction’s grips. These people are trying to steer addicts, in some cases, family members, to treatment.

The people trying to fight addiction locally are police officers, school employees — people in the private and the public sector. Some of their efforts save lives, but lives continue to be lost to addiction.

Viewed from a cynical perspective, class-action suits against drug companies are just another tactic generating mountains of legal documents and billable hours for attorneys. Viewed from a progressive perspective, the suits are another weapon in the arsenal assembled to fight addiction and battle it until no one dies as a result of an overdose, or walks through life like a zombie, stealing from family members and forfeiting ties with family and society.

No one can deny every weapon in the arsenal needs to be in action to defeat addiction. It is an epidemic filling obituary pages in newspapers and leaving behind broken families.

Again, cynics will say class-action suits against drug companies are high-profile stunts signifying nothing and producing no tangible results, even after years of legal maneuvering. On the other hand, maybe a high profile is exactly what is needed to start scoring major wins in the fight against addiction.

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