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State of Ohio Sues Five Drug Manufacturers Over Opioid Epidemic

Update Date: Jun 12, 2017 07:28 PM EDT

The state of Ohio has sued five drug manufacturers for contributing to the opioid epidemic that is growing in the United States.

In the lawsuit filed on May 31, Attorney General Mike DeWine argues that the five companies "helped unleash a health care crisis that has had far-reaching financial, social, and deadly consequences in the State of Ohio," NPR reports. The five companies being sued are Purdue Pharma, Endo Health Solutions, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, Johnson & Johnson, and Allergan.

The lawsuit accuses the companies of engaging in a marketing campaign to boost sales of prescription painkillers such as OxyContin, and misleading doctors and the public regarding the risks and benefits of prescription opioids. The suit also claims that the companies provided funding to prominent doctors, medical societies, and patient advocacy groups to win their support for the drugs' use, reports the New York Times.

Specifically, the suit claims that the companies aimed to downplay the dangers of becoming addicted to opioids and that they are unsafe for long-term use, and that "the compassionate treatment of pain required opioids," said DeWine's suit. The drugs were originally meant to be used for short-term, acute pain, but over the last 20 years, doctors have increasingly prescribed them to treat chronic, long-term pain.

Janssen, one of the defendants (a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson), told the Cleveland Plain Dealer that the lawsuit was "legally and factually unfounded," and that the company acted in the best interest of the patients regarding pain medications, which are FDA-approved. Purdue Pharma, another defendant, told The Plain Dealer that it has been seeking to combat opioid addiction with "prescription drug monitoring programs and supporting access to Naxolone."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 25,000 people in the U.S. died in 2015 from overdosing on opioids like fentanyl, oxycodone and hydrocodone, more than double the number from a decade earlier, reports The New York Times. The drugs are now responsible for more deaths than homicide and are approaching traffic accidents as a leading cause of death.

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