Ohio First State to Sue Opioid Manufacturers

Alicia Ault

June 01, 2017

The state of Ohio, an epicenter of the opioid epidemic, is suing five opioid manufacturers, alleging the companies engaged in fraudulent marketing that misled the state, prescribers, and users about the medications' risks and benefits.

"We believe the evidence will also show that these companies got thousands and thousands of Ohioans ― our friends, our family members, our coworkers, our kids ― addicted to opioid pain medications, which has all too often led to use of the cheaper alternatives of heroin and synthetic opioids," said Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine in a statement.

"These drug manufacturers led prescribers to believe that opioids were not addictive, that addiction was an easy thing to overcome, or that addiction could actually be treated by taking even more opioids," said DeWine. "They knew they were wrong, but they did it anyway ― and they continue to do it."

The suit, filed in Ross County, Ohio, was brought against Purdue Pharma, Endo Health Solutions, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries and its subsidiary Cephalon, Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals, and Allergan.

Ohio is an epicenter of the opioid epidemic. The state experienced an 18% increase in drug overdose deaths in 2014 (2744 deaths) and a 21% increase in 2015 (3,310), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Two thirds of overdose deaths in the United States are due to opioids, both prescription and illegal, says the CDC.

The state is seeking an injunction to stop the companies from what it calls continued "deceptions and misrepresentations" of the risks and benefits of opioids. It also wants manufacturers to repay the state and consumers for purchases of unnecessary prescriptions.

Ohio is the first state to sue opioid manufacturers. A number of municipal and county governments ― including Chicago, several counties in New York, and the city of Everett, Washington — currently have suits pending. They, too, have alleged that the companies engaged in deceptive and fraudulent marketing.

Senator Claire McCaskill, the top Democrat on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, also has been investigating the opioid manufacturers.


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