Dayton mayor files suit against physicians, drugmakers and drug distributers for role in Ohio opioid crisis

The mayor of Dayton, Ohio, filed a lawsuit Monday against physicians, drug manufacturers and drug wholesalers for allegedly contributing to the city's ongoing opioid crisis, according to a release.

The suit aims to recover costs to the community related to the increases in law enforcement, drug support programs and educational initiatives launched in response to the city's heroin epidemic. As policies have been put into play to crackdown on lax opioid prescribing, many people with opioid addiction have turned to cheaper street drugs. The national rate of heroin use has surged in recent years.

"The heroin epidemic was no accident," said Mayor Nan Whaley. "These big drug companies have destroyed too many lives, broken too many families and done so much damage to our communities … ever since this crisis was created, our community has been forced to focus our time, attention and your tax dollars on addressing the heroin epidemic."

The Dayton suit differs from the suit filed by Ohio's attorney general in May against drugmakers in that it also names drug wholesalers and individual physicians who allegedly advocated for the widespread use of opioid painkillers.

In addition to four out-of-state physicians, the Dayton lawsuit names Purdue Pharma; Teva Pharmaceuticals; Cephalon; Johnson & Johnson; Janssen Pharmaceuticals; Ortho-McNeilJanssen Pharmaceuticals; Endo Pharmaceuticals; Allergan; Watson Laboratories; McKesson Corp.; Cardinal Health; and Amerisourcebergen, according to a report from The Columbus Dispatch.

"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," Cardinal Health said in a statement emailed to Becker's Hospital Review.

"We operate as part of a multi-faceted and highly regulated healthcare system — we do not promote, prescribe or dispense prescription medications to members of the public — and believe everyone in that chain, including us, must do their part, which is ultimately why we believe these copycat lawsuits filed against us are misguided, and will do nothing to stem the crisis. 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."

In Montgomery County, Ohio, where Dayton is located, the coroner's office has been forced to rent refrigerator trailers to store excess bodies due to recent surges in opioid-related deaths. The coroner has reported 348 drug overdose deaths this year. In 2016, the county reported 339 drug overdose deaths for the entire year, according to the Dispatch.

In 2016, Lorrain, Ohio, reported 132 fatal drug overdoses, which was double 2015's total, according to the Dispatch. Chase Ritenauer, Lorrain's mayor, said he plans to file a suit similar to Dayton's.

"It is time that the companies and distributers who started this epidemic take responsibility for the communities that have been ravaged as a result of the medications they produce," said Mr. Ritenauer. "It is my sincere hope that mayors across the state will join Mayor Whaley and me as we pursue justice for Ohio communities."

More articles on opioids: 
Mystery opioid linked to dozens of overdoses, 4 deaths in Georgia 
20% of weight-loss surgery patients still on opioids 7 years after surgery 
New York county sees 22 opioid overdoses in 48 hours

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