Ohio attorney general sues 5 drugmakers over opiate crisis

In the lawsuit, state Attorney General Mike DeWine accused the companies of misrepresenting the risks of prescription opioid painkillers that led to a drug addiction problem in the state.

"The companies knew what they were doing was wrong but did it anyway - and continue to do so", DeWine, a Republican who will run for governor next year, said. DeWine said the lawsuit is among the most comprehensive taken by any state against a broad group of opioid analgesic makers. That resulted in people seeking cheaper and more accessible ways of dealing with chronic pain and addiction, DeWine said.

Remedies sought by the lawsuit include damages for money OH spent on opioids produced by the defendants, repayment to customers who paid for unnecessary opioid prescriptions for chronic pain, a declaration that the companies' action were illegal and an injunction to stop the defendants' "continued deceptions and misrepresentations and to abate the harm they have caused". Addiction is leading to use of heroin, which is an epidemic in the state, he said.

"Ohio is now awash in opioids and engulfed in a public health crisis", the lawsuit said.

One lawyer in private practice in Mississippi, John Davidson, is listed as outside counsel for the plaintiffs in both the OH and Mississippi cases.

That includes hundreds of millions of dollars spent by Medicaid, the Bureau of Workers' Compensation and other state programs, as well state spending to mitigate the effects of the epidemic.

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SIEGEL: And what's the role that you believe that the pharmaceutical industry and those companies in particular played in the situation you're dealing with in OH these days? Her daughter, Felicia Detty, became addicted after pills were prescribed for her when she was 18 years old.

Specifically, Ohio's suit alleges that the drugmakers violated state consumer protection law by distributing what DeWine's office says were "false and misleading" statements about the risks and benefits of opioids. That appears to be the thrust of the state's argument.

Big Pharma's success has created "a population of patients physically and psychologically dependent on them.And when those patients can no longer afford or legitimately obtain opioids, they often turn to the street to buy prescription opioids or even heroin", according to the complaint.

The cases culminated in the 1998 Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement between tobacco companies and 46 states.

I realize that addiction is a disease, but somewhere in this suit there should be room for taking individual patients to task for avoiding personal responsibility for their actions.

DeWine, who is expected to announce his candidacy soon, said he and his staff had been examining the issue for some time. "On my watch, if the drug companies want to keep doing business in OH, they need to pay for the police and first responders, the detox facilities and recovery services that threaten to bankrupt our cities and towns". What part of this equation are the companies responsible for?

  • Darren Santiago