Chicago-area counties file opioid epidemic lawsuits: 3 things to know

Cook County and five other counties encompassing Chicago suburbs recently filed lawsuits against drugmakers for the companies' alleged roles in facilitating Illinois' opioid epidemic.

Here are three things to know.

1. The lawsuits, in keeping with legal actions taken by dozens of counties around the U.S., allege several of the nation's leading drugmakers engaged in an aggressive and fraudulent marketing campaign to promote the widespread use of prescription opioids. The suits seek to recoup local funds expended addressing the crisis. Defendants named are Purdue Pharma, Abbott Laboratories, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, Cephalon, Johnson & Johnson, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Endo International and multiple subsidaries of the companies.

2. DuPage, Lake, Will, McHenry and Kane counties filed a joint suit against the drugmakers on Dec. 21. Collectively, the counties experienced 237 opioid-related deaths in 2015. The lawsuit filed by the counties also lists three individual physicians as defendants.

"The drug industry put profits before people, deliberately misleading trusted doctors who sought to help their patients manage pain," said Kane County State's Attorney Joseph McMahon. "This lawsuit fulfills our responsibility to hold those who misled our community about the addictiveness of opioids financially accountable."

3. Cook County filed its lawsuit on Wednesday. In 2016, opioid-related overdoses increased by 70 percent to 1,091 in the county.

"The impact that opioids are having on Cook County cannot be ignored," said Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx. "We see it in every part of the County, and the human cost is truly staggering. We must act in the public interest and hold accountable those who have been complicit in the creation of this epidemic."

More articles on opioids: 
Opioid overdose deaths surge among African Americans: 5 things to know 
North Carolina AG accuses Insys of illegally pushing fentanyl, files lawsuit 
Opioid deaths fuel dip in US life expectancy for second straight year: 5 things to know

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