Chicago names 3 drug distributors in opioid lawsuit, allocates $225k to address local crisis: 7 things to know

Attorneys on behalf of Chicago filed a federal lawsuit March 6 against three of the largest opioid distributors in the U.S. for allegedly contributing to a public health crisis related to the "unfettered and unlawful distribution" of opioids in the city, according to a report from the Chicago Sun-Times.

Here are seven things to know.

1. The lawsuit names AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson Corp., as defendants. Collectively, the three companies account for 90 percent of all prescription drug distribution revenue in the nation.

2. Chicago saw more than 740 opioid-related overdose deaths in 2016, marking a 75 percent surge from the year prior, according to the Sun-Times.

3. Democratic Mayor Rahm Emanuel attributed the rise in opioid addiction and overdoses in Chicago and nationwide to the oversupply of the drugs.

"Chicago is continuing our legal fight to end irresponsible practices and hold companies accountable for their deceptive actions that cause serious damage to individuals, families and neighborhoods, and has helped fuel the heroin epidemic in Chicago," said Mr. Emanuel.

4. John Parker, senior vice president of the Healthcare Distribution Alliance, a national trade group representing drug wholesalers, told the Sun-Times via email the opioid crisis is a "complex public health challenge that requires a collaborative and systemic response that engages all stakeholders."

"Given our role, the idea that distributors are responsible for the number of opioid prescriptions written defies common sense and lacks understanding of how the pharmaceutical supply chain actually works and is regulated," said Mr. Parker, according to the Sun-Times.

5. In 2014, Chicago became the first city to file a lawsuit against drugmakers for concealing health risks associated with opioids. Many other cities and counties across the nation have filed similar lawsuits, but so far Chicago's case is the only one to reach the discovery portion of the lawsuit.

6. On March 8, the city announced a $225,000 investment in the Chicago Recovery Alliance. The initiative seeks to train community members who have experience with opioid addiction to become peer health workers to connect community members with treatment centers, increase awareness about opioid addiction and distribute naloxone within in the community, among other efforts.

7. Naloxone distribution through the Chicago Recovery Alliance helped reverse 1,544 overdoses in 2017.

More articles on opioids: 
Trump administration considers death penalty for opioid drug dealers 
Boston hospitals face opioid shortage: 3 things to know 
House committee to consider 20+ opioid bills over 2 days

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