York County to sue drug companies for role in opioid crisis


York County solicitor Glenn Smith talks about the county’s lawsuit against pharmaceutical companies he says share responsibility for opioid addiction and overdose deaths. (Brett Sholtis/Transforming Health)

At least 93 people died from drug overdoses this year in York County, including 10 the first week of December. Now, the county has added its name to the growing list of those who say pharmaceutical companies share some of the blame for the opioid crisis.

York County has filed a lawsuit against companies that produce drugs such as OxyContin and Percocet. It’s the fourth county in the state to seek damages against drug makers.

County Solicitor Glenn Smith says, the 252-page civil complaint outlines how drug companies have downplayed the risks associated with some prescription drugs.

“This negligent behavior has led to a significant increase in our budgets including first responder overtime, NARCAN training, emergency care treatment, loss of tourism and community productivity,” Smith said.

Twenty-five defendants are listed in the filing, including four doctors, none of whom are from York County.


This 252-page civil complaint lists 25 entities as defendants, alleging their responsibility in the opioid crisis that has only gotten worse in Pennsylvania and across the country in recent years. (Brett Sholtis/Transforming Health)

Beaver, Delaware and Luzerne Counties have filed similar lawsuits, while Allegheny and Dauphin counties have said they plan to do so. The states of Ohio and Mississippi have also turned to lawsuits.

Smith notes that county taxpayer money won’t be used in the suit. The county has retained a New York law firm, Napoli Shkolnik PLLC. No specific amount of damages were listed in the suit.

York County district Attorney-elect Dave Sunday says he expects a long, drawn out battle. Sunday says, should the county win the suit, the money would be used to help treat addicts and set up educational programs.

Sunday says the suit will give York “a seat at the table,” in coming years, as drug makers are held accountable for their role the national epidemic.

Brett Sholtis
Brett Sholtis

Brett Sholtis was a health reporter for WITF/Transforming Health until early 2023. Sholtis is the 2021-2022 Reveal Benjamin von Sternenfels Rosenthal Grantee for Mental Health Investigative Journalism with the Rosalynn Carter Fellowships for Mental Health Journalism. His award-winning work on problem areas in mental health policy and policing helped to get a woman moved from a county jail to a psychiatric facility. Sholtis is a University of Pittsburgh graduate and a Pennsylvania Army National Guard Kosovo campaign veteran.

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