Board to weigh declaring supply of prescription pills a 'public nuisance'

July 27, 2017

The Multnomah County Board of Commissioners on July 26 will consider declaring the improper supply and distribution of prescription pain pills as a legal nuisance.

The Board took the unusual step after Commissioner Sharon Meieran, an emergency room doctor, brought the resolution saying that in the 1970s and 1980s, there was a  recognized need to treat people with chronic pain humanely.

“Unfortunately, the pendulum swung too far.’’

Meieran said that large pharmaceutical companies’ aggressive marketing of pills for non-chronic pain led to the current opiate epidemic.

In 2013, Oregon had the highest non-medical use of prescription painkillers in the United States. In the Tri-County region, there is an average of nearly one opiate prescription for every person.

“The improper and irresponsible dumping of pain pills into our community created an unreasonable threat to the public health, safety and welfare of residents of Multnomah County.’’ the proposed resolution reads.

From 2009 to 2015, there were 861 opioid related deaths in the county. Between 2013 and 2015, ambulances responded to nearly two overdose calls a day.

Commissioner Meieran said the County has been working for years to reduce the harm including: writing new and safer prescription guidelines for doctors;  distributing the rescue drug naloxone to lay people, expanding programs that help people who are addicted get into treatment instead of jail and will be hosting a regional summit this fall.

“The departments have been doing their job, this is a chance for the Board to take strong stand  and call out what this has done to public resources.’’

The board will vote at the regularly scheduled board meeting on Thursday, July 26.