Ohio attorney general sues makers of OxyContin, Percocet over drug epidemic

Ohio attorney general sues makers of OxyContin, Percocet over drug epidemic

COLUMBUS, OH (FOX19) - Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is calling on major drug companies to "tell the public the truth" about addictive pain medications.

On Wednesday, DeWine announced his office has filed a lawsuit against five makers of opiate drugs.

"We believe the evidence will also show that these companies got thousands and thousands of Ohioans -- our friends, our family members, our co-workers, our kids -- addicted to opioid pain medications, which has all too often led to use of the cheaper alternatives of heroin," DeWine said.

DeWine wants the companies to take responsibility for the opiate addiction crisis in Ohio. He claims the drugmakers led doctors and patients to believe opioids are not addictive.

Between 2011 and 2015, Ohioans were prescribed more than 3 million doses of opioid drugs.

"And guess what also happened?" DeWine said. "They got addicted to heroin."

Research shows more than 80 percent of heroin users previously abused pharmaceutical opioids, according to DeWine.

"The death waves of this tsunami have not yet crested," he said.

Nicole Schiesler with the Prevention First advocacy group agrees with Dwine that the companies allegedly used deceptive marketing tactics.

"Doctors were given advertisements or pamphlets that told them that these opioids were safe and not as addictive as they were told," she said.

The five manufacturers listed as defendants include:

  • Purdue Pharma, which sold OxyContin, MS Contin, Dilaudid, Butrans, Hyslingla, and Targiniq
  • Endo Health Solutions, which sold Percocet, Percodan, Opana, and Zydone
  • Teva Pharmaceutical Industries and its subsidiary Cephalon, which sold Actiq and Fentora
  • Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals, which sold Duragesic and Nucynta
  • Allergan, which sold Kadian, Norco, and several generic opioids

Watch the press conference here:

The suit is filed in Ross County because southern Ohio is ground zero for opioid addiction, DeWine said.

"Despite all evidence to the contrary about the addictive nature of these pain medications, they are doing precious little to take responsibility for their actions and to tell the public the truth," DeWine said.

He claims the fine print of opioid drugs clearly contradicts the manufacturer's marketing claims.

"The people who played a significant role in creating this mess in the state of Ohio should pay to clean it up," he said.

Schiesler said many patients don't know that they are addicted to the narcotic until it is too late.

"Then the addiction becomes so strong that, 'I need it, I'm going to go into withdraw if I don't have it,'" she said.

In many cases, the patient looks for something stronger.

"So then what happened is people turned to heroin," Schiesler said.

She said three out of four heroin addicts began their abuse by taking prescription medication.

This lawsuit is not the first of its kind. Back in 2015, the state of Kentucky settled a lawsuit with Purdue Pharma for $24 million, after accusing the company of leading a "explosion in opiods."

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