FARMINGTON — Two of Franklin County’s three county commissioners said Tuesday they remain opposed to a nationwide effort to sue pharmaceutical companies that manufacture and distribute opioids, despite decisions by several town, city and county governments in Maine to join the effort.

“Where is this going to end?” District 1 Commissioner Terry Brann said during a commissioner’s meeting Tuesday. “Are we going to sue auto manufacturers because of accidents? Are we going to sue the alcohol industry because of accidents that occur? I don’t see a difference.”

District 3 Commissioner Clyde Barker said he agreed with Brann the lawsuit is unnecessary, while District 1 Commissioner Charlie Webster was absent.

The lawsuit, filed in state court by Napoli Shkolnik PLLC, of New York City, and Trafton, Matzen, Belleau & Frenette LLP, of Auburn, on behalf of several Maine municipalities and county governments, accuses manufacturers and distributors of opioids of fraudulent and negligent marketing and distribution of the drugs.

So far, 11 of Maine’s 16 counties have joined the lawsuit, as well as 10 municipalities, including Auburn, Bangor, Lewiston, Waterville and Portland, according to Napoli Shkolnik.

The number of overdose deaths in Maine has risen sharply the last few years, with the Maine Attorney General’s Office reporting a record 418 drug overdose deaths in 2017, a majority of them from opioids, particularly heroin and fentanyl. But four of five new heroin users were first addicted to prescription opioids, according to the American Society of Addiction Medicine.

Most of the deaths reported were in counties that are home to Maine’s largest cities.

Fewer than 10 overdose deaths were reported in Franklin County in 2017, according to the Attorney General’s Office.

Webster, when reached by phone Tuesday, said he doesn’t have an opinion on the lawsuit but the county had been advised by its attorney not to support it.

Warren Shay, the attorney handling the lawsuit for Franklin County, said he could not give further detail on what concerns there are for Franklin County, but County Clerk Julie Magoon said there have been two major issues.

One is that it left open the amount the county could be charged for research fees. In addition, she said, the suit originally did not name all defendants it sought to prosecute, and there was concern it could jeopardize the county’s relationship with Franklin Memorial Hospital or other entities.

Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems, which runs hospitals in Bangor and Portland, already has withdrawn from community partnerships in those cities, citing concern over the naming of individual physicians affiliated with their practices.

Magoon said the issue has been resolved in Franklin County by adding the stipulation that the county could pick and choose whom it wants to prosecute.

Still, the county to date hasn’t taken any action on the suit. Brann and Barker agreed Tuesday to postpone further discussion until the next meeting.

Rachel Ohm can be contacted at 612-2368 or at:

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