1st Texas county files opioid lawsuit against drugmakers, distributors

Attorneys representing Upshur County, Texas, filed a lawsuit Sept. 29 against more than a dozen drugmakers and drug distributors for their alleged role in the state's opioid epidemic.

Here are six things to know.

1. The lawsuit alleges opioids were tightly regulated until the drug industry made a concerted effort to expand use of the prescription medications in the late 1990s.

"There is no denying that we have an opioid crisis in America, and that the human misery and financial damage it causes is enormous," said Jeffrey Simon, co-founder and shareholder of Simon Greenstone Panatier Bartlett, the law firm representing Upshur County. "Although accidental overdoses have become the leading cause of death for Americans under the age of 50, the pharmaceutical industry has not been fully held accountable for its role in creating this epidemic."

2. The defendants listed in the suit include Abbott Laboratories, Allergan, AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, Endo Pharmaceuticals, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Johnson & Johnson, McKesson, Pfizer, Purdue Pharma and Teva Pharmaceuticals.

3. Cardinal Health spokesman Geoffrey Basye commented on the lawsuit in a statement obtained by The Texas Tribune.

"The people of Cardinal Health care deeply about the devastation opioid abuse has caused American families and communities and are committed to helping solve this complex national public health crisis," Mr. Basye said. "We will defend ourselves vigorously in court and at the same time continue to work, alongside regulators, manufacturers, doctors, pharmacists and patients, to fight opioid abuse and addiction."

4. In a statement to The Texas Trbune, Purdue Phrama said, "We are deeply troubled by the opioid crisis and we are dedicated to being part of the solution … We vigorously deny these allegations and look forward to the opportunity to present our defense."

5. Simon Greenstone Panatier Bartlett also represents the East Texas counties of Bowie, Delta, Hopkins, Lamar, Red River and Smith. Similar lawsuits are expected to be filed on behalf of each of those counties in the future.

6.  Nearly 1,200 Texans died of opioid-related overdoses in 2015.

More articles on opioids: 
Co-prescribing gabapentin with opioid painkillers ups risk of overdose by 49% 
Survey: 1 in 4 Americans say physicians are most to blame for opioid epidemic 
Opioid-related ED discharges dip in last decade, but heroin discharges rise

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