City of Phoenix preparing to take legal action against prescription opioid makers

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Crews are going through boxes of the overdose-reversing drug "naloxone." (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Crews are going through boxes of the overdose-reversing drug "naloxone." (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)

Fire and police departments are responding to more opioid-related calls than ever.

The City of Phoenix is now considering suing opioid manufacturers for damages caused by addiction, similar to how many states sued tobacco companies back in the 1990's.

Dozens of cities and counties across the country have already filed lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies. The State of Arizona sued a Chandler manufacturer back in August. 

[RELATED: Arizona attorney general files lawsuit against Chandler opioid manufacturer and 3 doctors]

Now the City of Phoenix is one step closer to joining the fight. 

At Phoenix Fire Department Station 18, calls for overdoses are sometimes more common than calls to house fires. 

"At least one a day and sometimes 5 or 6," said Phoenix fire Capt. Kevin Duzy. 

[READ MORE: Arizona opioid treatment providers respond to public health emergency]

Duzy has 20 years experience, he says opioid-related calls began to spike just a few years ago. 

"You'll see a lot of people have some type of an injury, a back injury where they're using them for pain," said Duzy. "Then they get addicted to them and that prescription will run out and they'll turn to whatever they can get."

In the last five months, 538 Arizonans have died of drug overdose. In that same time frame, there were 2,300 opioid overdoses in Maricopa County alone. 

"It wears on you after awhile, just running so many calls every day, in and out, 24 hours a day," said Duzy.

[SPECIAL SECTION: Opioid Crisis in Arizona]

Running half-million-dollar fire trucks to all these calls are expensive, they get just a little over a mile to the gallon. Plus, crews are going through boxes of the overdose-reversing drug "Naloxone."

Taxpayers are stuck with the bill.

Now the City of Phoenix wants drug manufacturers to pay them back. 

[RELATED: State gets millions, will train more first responders to fight opioid overdoses]

"Drug companies lied about the risks associated with these drugs, these drug companies knew the risks and they lied," said Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton in Wednesday afternoon's city council meeting. "Those lies have destroyed lives in our community."

City council voted unanimously to hire an outside attorney, they will first send a demand letter to opioid manufacturers. If they receive no favorable response, the city council will consider a lawsuit. 

City of Phoenix leaders hope they can recover the cost of fighting the war on opioids and use it for addiction treatment.

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Lauren ReimerLauren Reimer joined the 3TV/CBS 5 family in June 2016. She is originally from Racine, WI but is no stranger to our heat.

Click to learn more about Lauren.

Lauren Reimer

She previously worked for KVOA in Tucson, covering topics that matter to Arizonans including the monsoon, wildfires and border issues. During the child migrant crisis of 2014, Reimer was one of only a handful of journalists given access to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection detention facility in Nogales, where hundreds of unaccompanied children were being held after crossing into the U.S. from Central America. Before that, Reimer worked at WREX in Rockford, IL. Lauren is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee and still visits home often. When not chasing news stories, Reimer loves to explore, enjoying everything from trying new adventurous foods to visiting state and national parks or local places of historical significance.

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