Ohio’s attorney general filed a lawsuit Wednesday accusing drugmakers of marketing prescription painkillers to patients who didn’t need them and committing fraud by downplaying their highly addictive effects.
“This lawsuit is about justice, it’s about fairness, it’s about what is right,” Attorney General Mike DeWine said.
The lawsuit follows a similar filing in Mississippi as states seek to find ways to recoup the damage of the devastating opioid epidemic and struggle to keep up with high death tolls, overdose-reversal drugs and funding for addiction treatment.
Public health officials have long blamed addiction to prescription painkillers for leading to the use of heroin and more potent drugs like fentanyl. Opioid-related deaths reached 33,000 in 2015, according to the latest-available data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Defendants broke the simple rules [of drug marketing] and helped unleash a healthcare crisis that has had far-reaching financial, social and deadly consequences in the state of Ohio,” the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit was filed against Endo, Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen, Teva and Allergan, as well as Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin. Prescriptions in 2012 were so high there would have been enough to provide every adult and child in the state with 68 pills a piece, the lawsuit said.
“Ohio is now awash in opioids and engulfed in a public health crisis the likes of which have never been seen before,” the lawsuit said.
Kentucky settled a similar lawsuit against Perdue in 2015, in which the company agreed to pay the commonwealth $24 million.
Janssen spokeswoman Jessica Castles Smith said in an emailed statement to Reuters the allegations are “legally and factually unfounded” and the company acted responsibly, noting the drug was approved by the Food and Drug Administration and bottles carry warning labels.
Purdue told Reuters in an emailed statement it shared DeWine’s concerns about the opioid crisis and was “committed to working collaboratively to find solutions.”
Ohio sues opioid makers for unleashing ‘healthcare crisis’