The state of Ohio has sued five major drug makers charging they oversold the benefits and undersold the risks of their opioid painkillers that have become a major epidemic in many states across the country.
The suit was filed by Ohio’s Republican Attorney General Mike DeWine, a former Ohio state senator, a former House member from Ohio, a former lieutenant governor in Ohio and a former U.S. senator from Ohio.
It might be a coincidence that last week DeWine announced his candidacy to succeed term-limited John Kasich and become the next governor of Ohio in 2018.
One of the benefits of elections in America, besides providing untold millions in ad revenues to local TV stations, is that candidates have an incentive to profess attention to issues of pressing public concern. Few contemporary issues have more pressing concerns than opioid addiction and deaths. You may recall much talk about it during last year’s presidential campaign.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have estimated that in excess of 33,000 Americans died from both prescription painkillers and heroin two years ago. That’s almost as many as the 40,000 estimated to die in vehicle crashes last year.
According to DeWine, the drug companies abetted the current opioid crisis by spending lavishly to oversell the benefits of drugs such as Percocet and OxyContin, while minimizing their potential addictive possibilities.
He said about one-in-five Ohioans were prescribed opioids last year, while one newspaper study found that nearly 4,200 died from overdoses. The government map above shows Ohio among a swath of states from Michigan to Louisiana and Oklahoma to North Carolina with the highest opioid prescription rates per 100 people.
The Ohio suit, similar to those filed in several other states and counties, alleges that drug companies violated the state’s Consumer Sales Practices Act, created a public nuisance by disseminating false and misleading statements and committed Medicaid fraud.
DeWine says he wants the companies to halt their alleged deceptive practices and pay unspecified damages to the state and Ohio consumers. At a Wednesday news conference DeWine stated, “These companies continue to mislead the public.”
The five companies sued are Allergan Plc, Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc., a unit of Johnson & Johnson, Purdue Pharma LP, Endo International Plc and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd’s Cephalon unit. Companies reacting either rejected the lawsuit’s claims and/or vowed to help address the problems.