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California County Accuses Drug Companies Of ‘Reaping Billions Of Dollars In Profits While Knowingly Fueling’ The Opioid Crisis

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter

A California county is suing opioid distribution companies for allegedly flooding communities with shipments of painkillers amid the national addiction crisis.

Officials in San Mateo County launched a lawsuit against McKesson Corp., Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen Wednesday, accusing the distributors of pushing false information regarding the abuse potential of opioids, while advocating for little regulatory oversight of the industry, reported the San Francisco Chronicle.

Lawyers representing the county claim the actions of distributors exacerbated the opioid crisis by allowing large shipments of opioid painkillers to go to pharmacies, hospitals and doctors in communities already inundated with addiction. (RELATED: OxyContin Maker Purdue Pharma Fires Remaining Sales Team)

“These distributors serve as middlemen, sending billions of doses of opioid pain pills to pharmacists, hospitals, nursing homes and pain clinics, many in San Mateo County,” says the lawsuit, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. “Responsibility for the crisis lies at the feet of the defendant distributors who are reaping billions of dollars in profits while knowingly fueling the epidemic.”

The Healthcare Distribution Alliance, which represents all three companies named in the lawsuit, argues that distributors are not responsible for how many prescriptions a doctor writes or the misuse of medication, saying that it, “defies common sense and lacks understanding of how the pharmaceutical supply chain actually works and is regulated.”

“Those bringing lawsuits would be better served addressing the root causes, rather than trying to redirect blame through litigation,” John Parker, senior vice president of the Healthcare Distribution Alliance, said in a previous statement.

San Mateo County joins hundreds of cities, counties and states who are suing both opioid distributors and manufacturers for allegedly fueling the opioid epidemic by lying about the addictive potential and overall effectiveness of their medications.

Pharmaceutical companies and drug distributors generally deny any claims of wrongdoing and say they are committed to working with the government to solve the opioid epidemic.

Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of accidental death for Americans under age 50, killing more than 64,000 people in 2016. The increase is driven primarily by opioids, which claimed 42,249 lives in 2016 — a 28 percent increase over the roughly 33,000 lives lost to opioids in 2015, according to data the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released Dec. 21, 2017.

Opioid overdose made up a staggering 66 percent of all drug overdose deaths in 2016, surpassing the annual number of lives lost to breast cancer.

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