Opioid epidemic: Cuyahoga County files lawsuit against drug manufacturers, distributors

CUYAHOGA COUNTY, Ohio -- In 2016, Cuyahoga County lost more people to the opioid epidemic than to deaths from homicides, suicides and car crashes combined.

Now, the county has filed a suit against manufacturers, distributors and four individuals accused of promoting opioids for sale and distribution that's led to such statistics locally and nationally.

According to a release from Cuyahoga County, the manufacturer defendants include: Purdue Pharma LP, Teva Pharmaceuticals, Cephalon, Janssen Pharmaceuticals. The distributors include McKeeson Corporation, Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen Corp.

“We need to hold the drug manufacturers and distributors accountable whose corporate strategy was to push these opiates into our community for the sake of profit,” Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael C. O’Malley said in a release.  “They are drug pushers on a national level.”

The release states that between 2011 and 2016, Cuyahoga County had a 23.5 drug overdose death rate per 100,000 population. In January 2017, there were 46 fatal overdoses. In June, it was predicted that the number of overdose deaths in 2017 would reach 775.

The epidemic is also causing an uptick in the number of children in foster care in the county as well.

Cuyahoga County is seeking to recoup damages for monies paid for increased health services, law enforcement services, social services, and other expenditures required by the opioid epidemic.

"This year alone, we have had to bear the burden of increased costs to the Medical Examiner’s office, increased costs of supplying drugs like Narcan to save victims of overdose, and additional cost of children in the foster care system because of a parent’s death or drug addiction," Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish said in the release. "This is an emergency."

The lawsuit has been filed with the State Court and the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas.

Read more here.