Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Salt Lake County Will Sue Pharma Companies Over Opioid Epidemic

Photo of pills spilling out of a prescription pill bottle
Roel Smart
A bottle of hydrocodone, a popular prescription semi-synthetic opioid that is used to treat moderate to severe pain.

Utah’s opioid crisis is prompting Salt Lake County officials to pursue legal action against pharmaceutical companies.

District Attorney Sim Gill joined by Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams announced Monday plans to sue several drug manufacturers. They say those companies bear some responsibility for the opioid crisis by downplaying the risks of addiction and overstating their benefits.


Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes was also at Monday's news conference. He said eventually the state should follow suit.


“This is a great place to start, but we have other counties that are going through the same consequences… lives and families and communities are being impacted across the state of Utah," he said. "And so this is something I would like to see [all] counties consider, and then ultimately the state needs to step forward in a strong way in this as well.”


An increasing number of states, counties and cities across the U.S. have started pursuing these lawsuits. President Trump declared opioid crisis a national health emergency last month.

Gill did not specify which companies would be singled out. A private law firm is expected to handle the lawsuit in the coming weeks. 

Lee Hale began listening to KUER while he was teaching English at a Middle School in West Jordan (his one hour commute made for plenty of listening time). Inspired by what he heard he applied for the Kroc Fellowship at NPR headquarters in DC and to his surprise, he got it. Since then he has reported on topics ranging from TSA PreCheck to micro apartments in overcrowded cities to the various ways zoo animals stay cool in the summer heat. But, his primary focus has always been education and he returns to Utah to cover the same schools he was teaching in not long ago. Lee is a graduate of Brigham Young University and is also fascinated with the way religion intersects with the culture and communities of the Beehive State. He hopes to tell stories that accurately reflect the beliefs that Utahns hold dear.
Julia joined KUER in 2016 after a year reporting at the NPR member station in Reno, Nev. During her stint, she covered battleground politics, school overcrowding, and any story that would take her to the crystal blue shores of Lake Tahoe. Her work earned her two regional Edward R. Murrow awards. Originally from the mountains of Western North Carolina, Julia graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2008 with a degree in journalism. She’s worked as both a print and radio reporter in several states and several countries — from the 2008 Beijing Olympics to Dakar, Senegal. Her curiosity about the American West led her to take a spontaneous, one-way road trip to the Great Basin, where she intends to continue preaching the gospel of community journalism, public radio and podcasting. In her spare time, you’ll find her hanging with her beagle Bodhi, taking pictures of her food and watching Patrick Swayze movies.
KUER is listener-supported public radio. Support this work by making a donation today.