Attorney General Mike DeWine Sues Five Pharmaceutical Companies for Role in Opiate Addiction Crisis

[image-1]Attorney General Mike DeWine targeted five pharmaceutical companies in a sweeping lawsuit filed today, alleging misrepresentation and misinformation on their part in the growing American opiate addiction crisis. The companies are Janssen Pharmaceutical, Allergan, Purdue Pharma, Endo and Cephalon.

"They are the most prominent," DeWine said of the defendants. "They constitute a majority of the drugs."

He insisted that the companies played an active role in flooding the market with prescription painkillers, which led explicitly to addiction for untold numbers of Ohioans. A woman who lost her daughter to opiate addiction appeared with DeWine today, explaining to reporters how powerless she and millions of Americans feel against this public health crisis. "Your entire world gets destroyed over something that you have no ability to fight," she said.

DeWine underscored the tone of Ohio's victimhood: “This is a human tragedy of epic proportion, ripping families apart."

Ohio is at the helm of the country's opiate problem, with more than 4,000 residents fatally overdosing last year. Medical examiners across the state have predicted even greater numbers of deaths in 2017.

"Quite candidly, I think it's my moral obligation to do this," DeWine said. "I don't want to look back 10 years from now and say we should have had the guts to file, we should have had the guts to call a spade a spade. ... There's not a lot of precedent for this action."

The suit makes Ohio only the second state to file such a complaint. Mississippi filed a lawsuit in March. DeWine's lawsuit was filed in Ross County, which includes Chillicothe and which saw 44 overdose deaths in 2016.

"It's an accumulation of facts, an accumulation of evidence, an accumulation of information," he said of the impetus behind filing. The main idea is that this suit will unearth pharmaceutical companies' tactics and policies during discovery.

We'll keep track of this case as it progresses.

Update: Purdue Pharma offered this statement to Scene: "We share the attorney general’s concerns about the opioid crisis and we are committed to working collaboratively to find solutions. OxyContin accounts for less than 2% of the opioid analgesic prescription market nationally, but we are an industry leader in the development of abuse-deterrent technology, advocating for the use of prescription drug monitoring programs and supporting access to Naloxone — all important components for combating the opioid crisis."

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Eric Sandy

Eric Sandy is an award-winning Cleveland-based journalist. For a while, he was the managing editor of Scene. He now contributes jam band features every now and then.
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