Ohio Attorney General suing companies that make pain medications

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said drug companies' deceptive marketing tactics led to the state's worst public health disaster

Attorney General Mike DeWine announced Wednesday that his office filed a lawsuit against five major drug companies that make drugs like oxycontin and percocet.


COLUMBUS, Ohio (WKBN) – Ohio’s Attorney General is taking aim at big drug companies that make pain medications with a lawsuit

Attorney General Mike DeWine announced Wednesday that his office filed a lawsuit against five major drug companies that make drugs like Oxycontin and Percocet.

The five manufacturers — which are listed as defendants — include:

  • Purdue Pharma, which sold OxyContin, MS Contin, Dilaudid, Butrans, Hyslingla, and Targiniq
  • Endo Health Solutions, which sold Percocet, Percodan, Opana, and Zydone
  • Teva Pharmaceutical Industries and its subsidiary Cephalon, which sold Actiq and Fentora
  • Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals, which sold Duragesic and Nucynta
  • Allergan, which sold Kadian, Norco, and several generic opioids

The lawsuit says the companies deceptively marketed those drugs, which has led to what DeWine is calling the state’s worst public health disaster. DeWine said the companies spent million of dollars to sell the drugs without highlighting how dangerously addicting they are.

“These drug companies knew that what they were saying was wrong, but they did it anyway and they continue to do so despite all evidence to the contrary about the addictive nature of these drugs,” he said. “They are doing precious little to take responsibility for their actions and tell the public the truth.”

DeWine also accused them of Medicaid fraud and violating the Ohio Consumer Sales Practices Act.

“Put profits above the health and wellbeing of Ohio consumers, and they did this by flooding the market with misleading information,” he said.

April Caraway, with the Trumbull County Mental Health and Recovery Board, is one of the area’s leading experts on dealing with drug addicts. She thinks the lawsuit is a good thing.

“I think there should be some accountability because the misperception is, ‘If I follow the directions my doctor gave and just take my pain meds as prescribed, I won’t become addicted,’ and that’s not true,” Caraway said.

State Sen. Joe Schiavoni (D – Boardman), applauded DeWine’s action and said Ohio’s opioid epidemic shows the companies are “profiting from the pain and suffering of many Ohio families.”

“I hope that whatever financial settlement this lawsuit might bring will be put toward helping the victims of this epidemic. In the meantime, the General Assembly must do more to provide the resources our counties desperately need now for drug treatment and other services,” Schiavoni said.

Watch: Full press conference 

Joining DeWine was Christiana Arredondo, of Ross County, whose 24-year-old daughter died of a drug overdose in 2015. The lawsuit was filed in the county south of Columbus, which has had a major problem with drug overdoses.

Arredondo said her daughter’s addiction to heroin started from pain medications.

“In these journals, you could see where she pleaded — even when she was in recovery — for God to take this away from her.”

A spokesperson for Janssen Pharmaceuticals called the allegations “legally and factually unfounded”:

We firmly believe the allegations in this lawsuit are both legally and factually unfounded. Janssen has acted appropriately, responsibly and in the best interests of patients regarding our opioid pain medications, which are FDA-approved and carry FDA-mandated warnings about the known risks of the medications on every product label.

At Janssen, we put the needs and well-being of the patients, caregivers and families we serve first. More than 100 million American adults suffer from chronic pain, a significant public health problem that places a tremendous emotional and financial burden on patients and their families. Our opioid pain medications give doctors and patients important choices to help manage the debilitating effects of chronic pain.

Purdue Pharma issued a response to the lawsuit on Wednesday:

We share the attorney general’s concerns about the opioid crisis and we are committed to working collaboratively to find solutions. OxyContin accounts for less than 2 percent of the opioid analgesic prescription market nationally, but we are an industry leader in the development of abuse-deterrent technology, advocating for the use of prescription drug monitoring programs and supporting access to naloxone — all important components for combating the opioid crisis.”

A record 3,050 Ohioans died from drug overdoses in 2015 — a figure expected to jump sharply once 2016’s numbers are tallied.

DeWine is joining other states that have filed similar lawsuits in the past. He’s seeking the following remedies:

  • A declaration that the companies’ actions were illegal
  • An injunction to stop their continued deceptions and misrepresentations and to abate the harm they have caused
  • Damages for the money that the state spent on the opioids that these companies sold and marketed in Ohio and for other costs of their deceptive acts
  • Repayment to consumers who, like the state, paid for unnecessary opioid prescriptions for chronic pain

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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