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Las Vegas personal injury attorney Robert Eglet has won his clients hundreds of millions of dollars to compensate for wrongful deaths and injuries. Now he’s working for the people of Clark County.
The county commission this week unanimously approved hiring Eglet and his firm, Eglet Prince, to sue prescription drug makers over the opioid epidemic. The county contends painkiller abuse has led to huge increases in spending on medical care, addiction treatment, and public safety.
Eglet told KNPR's State of Nevada that the main point of the lawsuit is that the drug manufacturers lied to doctors and the American people.
“The contention is the opioid drug manufacturers and their distributors essentially defrauded the medical community and the American people over the last two decades with respect to opioid drugs,” he said.
Eglet said in the late 90s drug makers marketed a new generation of opiate drugs as having a low-risk of addiction, which they don't.
“They spent tens of millions of dollars in providing this false information about the benefits of long-term opiate use by overstating the information about the benefits of opiates for chronic pain,” he said.
At the same time drug makers were touting the benefits of the new opioids, doctors were being told to act more aggressively to help patients with chronic pain like back or knee pain.
Eglet said doctors were told they could prescribe a three-month of supply to patients with chronic pain who had been coming to their office month after month. But in reality, the drugs are highly addictive and withdrawal from them can be difficult.
The opioid crisis is happening around the country, but Eglet said Clark County has a bigger problem than most communities.
“Here in our community it is much worse than it is around the rest of the country,” he said, “It’s a huge problem that was no question caused by these pharmaceutical companies.”
During the meeting where his hiring was approved, Eglet said time is of the essence, and likened today’s situation to the efforts to reach settlements with tobacco companies 20 years ago.
“Don’t wait around for whatever crumbs fall our way, like in the tobacco case,” Eglet said. He filed the first opioid lawsuit the next day.
Eglet explained that when the tobacco companies finally settled Nevada only received just more than $1 billion but state's like Minnesota and Mississippi that had private lawyers working for the state's interests received billions of dollars.
In addition to that, the money the state received never trickled down to the counties and cities that suffered the brunt of the health costs from tobacco use. He does not want the same thing to happen to any settlement that might come from the opioid lawsuit.
In 2010, Eglet clients were awarded a half-billion dollar judgment in connection with a negligence-caused hepatitis outbreak in Clark County a decade ago.
Robert Eglet, attorney suing over opioid epidemic