Drugmakers face barrage of lawsuits over opioid epidemic


The companies that manufacture and distribute highly addictive painkillers are facing a barrage of lawsuits for the toll their product has taken on communities across the country as the worst drug epidemic in U.S. history continues to escalate.

Within the past year, at least 25 states, cities and counties have filed civil cases against manufacturers, distributors and large drugstore chains that make up the $13 billion-a-year opioid industry. In the past few weeks alone, the attorneys general for Ohio and Missouri, along with the district attorneys for three counties in Tennessee, filed suits against the industry — and the attorney general for Oklahoma filed suit on Friday.

The strategy echoes the effort against major tobacco companies in the 1990s and is born of similar frustration over rising death rates and the increasing costs of addressing the continuing public health crisis. After years of government and pharmaceutical firms failing to control the problem, some lawyers say the suits have the potential to force the industry to curb practices that contribute to it.

“If they’re not going to do it voluntarily, we’re going to drag them to the table and make them,” said Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, who sued five drug manufacturers for the costs of the opioid epidemic.

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