Ohio AG Is Determined To Force Big Pharma To Pay To ‘Clean Up Their Mess’

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter
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The attorney general of Ohio, who is suing drug manufacturers for igniting the opioid epidemic, vowed Monday to hold the companies financially liable for the damage done by painkillers in the state.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, a Republican, filed a lawsuit May targeting Purdue Pharma, Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen Pharmaceuticals unit, Teva Pharmaceuticals, Endo Health Solutions and Allergan. It alleges the companies violated the Ohio Corrupt Practices Act and committed Medicaid fraud in their push to sell prescription painkillers, reports WCPO.

DeWine tore into the pharmaceutical industry in a speech Monday, where he announced his “Recovery Ohio” plan, a 12-point strategy to overcome the plague of opioid addiction in the state. He said drug makers have caused “misery and destruction” throughout Ohio, noting opioid overdoses kill roughly 14 residents each day.

“I am determined to bring them to justice by demanding that they fund the extensive effort needed to clean up their mess,” DeWine said Monday, according to WCPO. “Yes, I am mad. And every Ohioan should be mad.”

The lawsuit seeks damages for the funds spent on combating opioid addiction and prescription drug overdoses in Ohio. The opioid death rate in the state spiked 13 percent between 2014 and 2015, among the largest increases in the country. Heroin deaths increased by nearly 20 percent over the same period, claiming 1,444 lives.

Officials in Ohio say opioids are also the main driver of a 19 percent spike in the number of kids removed from parental custody to foster care since 2010.

Representatives of Purdue Pharma submitted legal filings against the Ohio lawsuit Sept. 8, advising the case should be dismissed for a litany of reasons including its contradiction of federal drug regulations. They note the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the use of their medications.

They also argue the lawsuit fails to identify specific cases of harm caused to patients as a direct result of Purdue’s marketing of OxyContin.

The pharmaceutical industry generally says they are committed to curbing rates of opioid abuse and helping the federal government solve the addiction epidemic, denying allegations of complicity in the crisis.

Data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse released Sept. 7 paints a grim outlook for the current opioid crisis ravaging American communities. Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of accidental death for Americans under 50.

The study predicts the addiction epidemic in America will continue to deteriorate, pushing drug deaths to an estimated 71,600 in 2017. If the estimates prove accurate, 2017 will be the second year in a row that drug deaths surpass U.S. casualties from the Vietnam War.

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