Officials in Bensalem take a stand against the opioid epidemic

A community is taking a stand against the opioid epidemic. Many wonder who is to blame for the spike in opioid related deaths. Is it the doctors who prescribe the drugs? Is it the victims who continue to use? Well, one local town is pointing the finger at pharmaceutical companies.

Bensalem's leaders say the opioid crisis is costing "tens of millions" of dollars they claim making arrests, offering prevention and treatment. Still, the bodies pile up.

"I am sick and tired of talking to parents here in Bensalem with dead kids due to this garbage," State Rep. Gene Digirolamo said.

So Wednesday, in the lobby of its municipal building its leaders fired their first salvo against big pharma.

"It's breaking my heart personally and I know it's breaking a lot of other hearts. We have to get on top of this situation," Mayor Joseph DiGirolamo said.

They'll sue says the mayor who today announced the hiring of a private law firm to bring legal action likely in weeks in state court. They'll name the biggest guns in the drug business like: Purdue Pharma and Johnson and Johnson.

Bensalem's new private attorney was careful not to show his hand.

FOX 29's Jeff Cole asked, "You believe they knew the addictive nature of this drug and didn't tell the public about it, correct ? "We intend to follow the evidence wherever it leads," attorney Gregory Heller said.

Township officials believe opioid makers underplayed the risk of addiction in an intense chase for profits. When the addicted couldn't get opioids they moved to buying heroin on the streets committing crime to get cash.

"People break into houses to get their next high. 80 percent of our instances are drug-related," Director of Police Fred Harran said.

Now, Bensalem says it wants its money back.

"We can change their policy. If they have to start paying money that's going to change their policy," DiGirolamo said.

Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc. released the following statement:

"We recognize opioid abuse is a serious public health issue that must be addressed. At the same time, we firmly believe the allegations in these lawsuits are both legally and factually unfounded. Janssen has acted responsibly and in the best interests of patients and physicians with regard to these medicines, which are FDA-approved and carry FDA-mandated warnings about possible risks on every product label. Janssen is committed to providing healthcare professionals with complete and accurate information on how to prescribe our opioid medications, which give doctors and patients important choices to help manage the debilitating effects of chronic pain, and we are continuing to work with stakeholders to support their safe and appropriate use."

-- William Foster, spokesperson, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc.