Ohio officials have sued five major pharmaceutical companies for the role they played in the current opioid epidemic.
Mike DeWine, the state attorney general alleges in the lawsuit, which was filed on Wednesday, that the five companies helped to unleash a crisis in healthcare that continues to have far-reaching social, financial and deadly consequences in Ohio.
The five companies named in Wednesday’s suit were Purdue Pharma, Teva Pharmaceutical and Cephalon its subsidiary, Endo Health Solutions, Allergan and Johnson & Johnson with Janssen Pharmaceuticals its subsidiary.
The lawsuit, just the second filed of its kind by any state, following Mississippi earlier in 2017, accuses the five companies of taking part in a marketing campaign downplaying the risks of addiction of opioid drugs they are selling while exaggerating their benefits for health problems like chronic pain.
DeWine’s office on Wednesday, in a press release, said the lawsuit claims the pharmaceutical companies took part in fraudulent marketing related to the benefits and risks of the prescription opioids that gave fuel to the epidemic of opioids in Ohio.
The suit said that by the latter part of the 1990s, each of the five named companies had started a persuasion scheme that targeted doctors, whom the state called victims of the systematic misinformation emitted by the companies.
The companies, alleges the lawsuit, persuaded doctors and their patients what they had known – opioids were addictive drugs, not safe in the majority of circumstances for use over the long term – was untrue and the opposite, that treating pain required the use of opioids.
In a prepared statement a Janssen spokesperson called the Ohio lawsuit factually and legally unfounded. The spokesperson added that Janssen had acted responsibly, appropriately and in the patient’s best interest regarding its opioid medications, which are approved by the FDA and carry warnings mandated by the FDA about known risks of the medicine on every label of the product.
Another defendant, Purdue Pharma, said it has taken part in combating widespread addiction of opioids. The company said that OxyContin represented 2% or less of the opioid prescription market nationwide, but Purdue Pharma is a leader in the industry in developing technology that is abuse-deterrent, advocating for programs of prescription drug monitoring and supporting the access of Naloxone.
Ohio health officials estimate that close to 200,000 people in the state have an addiction to opioids which is close to the population of the city of Akron, Ohio.