Ohio Attorney General sues prescription drug manufacturers

May 31, 2017 – The Ohio attorney general on Wednesday sued five drugmakers for their alleged role in perpetrating the state’s addiction crisis, accusing the companies of intentionally misleading patients about the dangers of painkillers and promoting benefits of the drugs not backed by science.

Attorney General Mike DeWine said the companies created a deadly mess in Ohio that they now need to pay to clean up.

“This lawsuit is about justice, it’s about fairness, it’s about what is right,” DeWine said in announcing the complaint filed in Ross County, a southern Ohio community slammed by fatal drug overdoses from painkillers and heroin.”These drug companies knew that what they were saying was wrong and they did it anyway and they continue to do so.”

A record 3,050 Ohioans died from drug overdoses in 2015, a figure expected to jump sharply once 2016 figures are tallied.

DeWine wants an injunction stopping the companies from their alleged misconduct and damages for money the state spent on opiates sold and marketed in Ohio. The attorney general also wants customers repaid for unnecessary opiate prescriptions for chronic pain.

Roger Winemiller is one of thousands of Ohioans DeWine is fighting for.

Winemiller lost his daughter and son to heroin in 2016, nine months apart.

“My daughter’s been gone over a year and it still doesn’t seem real,” Winemiller said. “I’ve lost two. It’s just like a bad dream that won’t quit.”

Winemiller said his daughter, Heather, was taking prescription pills before her addiction spiraled out of control.

“My daughter started using it as a way to deal with anxiety,” Winemiller explained.

“(She) started using pills and tried stuff that the doctor prescribed but it just didn’t work, then went to pills on the street then graduated to heroin.”

Winemiller told WLWT he supports DeWine’s efforts and believes it will help bring more awareness and resources to the growing crisis.

“It’s not the whole cause, but it’s a big part of the cause,” Winemiller said. “I mean, there’s many, many people that’s gone to pain clinics, had surgeries or whatever, and they take this medication and they get hooked on it, and then they get cut off and so they go the cheaper route and end up with the heroin.”

DeWine, a Republican expected to run for governor next year, joins other states that have filed similar lawsuits. His move also comes as other candidates in the governor’s race have made holding pharmaceutical companies’ accountable for their role in the crisis a campaign issue.

Democratic candidate Nan Whaley, the Dayton mayor, is airing online video spots in which she criticizes sitting Republicans for doing too little to solve the heroin and opioid epidemic. Whaley says taking on drug companies for their role in the crisis will be her highest priority as governor.

Kentucky settled a similar lawsuit with Purdue Pharma in December 2015. The company agreed to pay Kentucky $24 million as part of the settlement of a long-running lawsuit that accused the company of misleading the public about the addictiveness of the powerful prescription drug OxyContin.

The drugmakers sued by DeWine are Purdue Pharma; Endo Health Solutions; Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, and its subsidiary, Cephalon; Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals; and Allergan.

By Emily Wood, Reporter, Associated Press
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