NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — The city of Norfolk is making a statement in the fight against opioids. Last week, the city filed a federal lawsuit against several pharmaceutical companies claiming they are a public nuisance.

“It’s a pretty large issue I would say,” said ODU professor Dr. Praveen Durgampudi.

That large issue continues to grow. We continue to see more and more people addicted to opioids and more lives are being lost.

“One part is from those users who are not aware of full side effects of the drugs,” Durgampudi added.

Durgampudi says the increase in overdoses is alarming. Norfolk officials feel the same way. That’s why they just filed a federal suit claiming the pharmaceutical companies who make prescription pills are misrepresenting the risks and benefits of the drugs.

According to the lawsuit, 739 people overdosed on opioids in the last two years in Norfolk. 58 of those overdoses were fatal. The city says an additional 65 people died due to overdoses between 2011 and 2014.

Norfolk officials are asking a jury to award damages from more than two dozen drug companies. They want them to pay for medical care and treatment for addicts, pay to provide care for infants born with opioid medical conditions and provide care for children whose parents are addicted. 

Dr. Durgampudi says this doesn’t just fall on the companies, but the users.

“An abuse is really what is causing the wider societal issue now,” he said.  “I don’t necessarily say the pharmaceutical industry is contributing this, but this lies more to public safety and educating the public who are taking the drugs .”

Virginia Beach and Chesapeake filed similar lawsuits within the last year.