The state of Ohio is suing five drug companies that manufacture prescription painkillers, alleging that they created a “human tragedy of epic proportion” by pushing misleading claims about the addictiveness of their products.
The lawsuit, filed May 31 by Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, targets five of the world’s largest opioid drug manufacturers: Purdue Pharma, Endo Health Solutions, Johnson & Johnson, Allergan, and Israel-based Teva Pharmaceutical Industries.
Some of the companies — most notably Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin — have already paid out multi-million dollar settlements in previous lawsuits over the opioid epidemic, which sees an average of 91 fatal overdoses per day. Deaths from prescription opioids have more than quadrupled since 1999, according to the CDC.
As the opioid crisis has received more attention, grim statistics about overdose deaths have started to lose their shock value. But the Ohio lawsuit, viewable in full below, includes several jaw-dropping new figures about the depth of the state’s problem.
• Between 2011 and 2015, 3.8 billion opioid pills were prescribed across Ohio.
• In 2016 alone, 2.3 million Ohio patients — roughly 20 percent of the state’s population — were prescribed an opioids.
• In 2015, more than 1.6 million opioid pills — 182 per patient — were prescribed in Ross County, an area hit especially hard by the epidemic.
• 4,149 people died from overdoses last year in Ohio, a 36 percent increase from 2015 when the state led the nation in fatal overdoses.
• From 2000 to 2015, the number of fatal drug overdoses in Ohio increased by 642 percent.
• 70 percent of infants placed in Ohio’s foster care system are children of parents with opioid addictions.
The lawsuit alleges that the companies engaged in “a well-funded marketing scheme” to “spread false and deceptive statements about the risks and benefits of long-term opioid use.”
The suit seeks unspecified financial damages. “It is just and it is right that the people who played a significant role in creating this mess should now pay to clean it up,” DeWine said, according to the Columbus Dispatch.
Johnson & Johnson and subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals reportedly called the allegations in the lawsuit “both legally and factually unfounded,” while Purdue Pharma said the company shares “the attorney general’s concerns about the opioid crisis and we are committed to working collaboratively to find solutions.