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Cuyahoga Co. Sues Opioid Drug Makers, Distributors

Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish announced the lawsuit during a press conference. (Credit: Ashton Marra/ideastream)
Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish announced the lawsuit during a press conference. (Credit: Ashton Marra/ideastream)

Cuyahoga County is the latest to add its name to the list of cities and counties in Ohio suing the makers and distributors of highly addictive opioid medications.

County Executive Armond Budish announced the civil case Friday morning, saying the opioid epidemic that resulted from the illegal practices of the seven named companies have cost county taxpayers millions.

The lawsuit claims the drug manufacturers Purdue Pharma LP, Teva Pharmaceuticals, Cephalon and Janssen Pharmaceuticals lied to the public about the risks of addiction associated with their drugs, and the distributors, which include McKesson Corporation, Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen Corp., didn’t report the amount of pills being sent out as required by law.

“They manufactured and distributed these addictive drugs in violation of the law, endangering the lives of thousands of our residents, and they did it just to make huge profits. We have had enough,” Budish said.

The civil law suit is seeking the recoupment of the cost the county has incurred for medical, emergency, social and law enforcement services as a result of the area’s opioid epidemic.

Data from the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner shows more than 600 county residents died from opioid related overdoses last year and this year.  The office projects a total of nearly 800 deaths by the end of 2017.

“If we’re waiting for help from Washington, it is not coming,” Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Mike O’Malley said.

Dayton and Lorain have filed similar lawsuits, and Summit County’s executive announced its intentions earlier this week.

Ohio’s Attorney General filed a lawsuit earlier this year against five drug makers, some of which are included in the Cuyahoga County case.

Some of the distribution companies named in the county’s suit, including McKesson, Cardinal Health and AmeriSource Bergen, belong to the Healthcare Distribution Alliance, a national organization that represents 34 distribution companies.

HDA Senior Vice President John Parker said in a written statement that given distributors’ roles providing logistical services to healthcare companies, claims that the organizations are responsible for the large number of opioid prescriptions written “defies common sense and lacks understanding of how the pharmaceutical supply chain actually works and how it is regulated.”

“We don’t make medicines, market medicines, prescribe medicines, or dispense them to consumers,” Parker said, adding that distributors are not willing to be “scapegoats” for the opioid problem.