Ohio sues drug distributors for their role in the opioid epidemic

Ohio has launched a lawsuit against four drug distributors for negligence for their role in the opioid epidemic.

The Ohio Attorney General recently announced that the state would be filing lawsuits against four drug distributors for their role in the devastating opioid epidemic, according to Reuters. The state alleges that the four distributors were negligent in allowing far more opioids into the state than could possibly be medically necessary. In some counties that have been particularly hard hit by the opioid epidemic, the number of opioid pills per person exceeded 100. The lawsuits follow earlier lawsuits announced against pharmaceutical manufacturers who are accused of downplaying the risks of opioids.

Distributors accused of negligence

The 117-page lawsuit accuses four drug distributors of being negligent in the number of opioids they brought into the state. The lawsuit alleges that distributors had evidence that far more opioid drugs were being brought into the state than were medically necessary, which would be clear evidence of drug abuse. That abuse can happen when drugs are used for non-medically necessary needs, such as being stolen, lost, or used for fraudulent prescriptions.

As the Cleveland Plain Dealer points out, in 2016 the average Ohio county received an astonishing 65 opioid painkillers per person and several counties received more than 100 opioid pills per person. The lawsuit is seeking both punitive and compensatory damages that the state has incurred as a result of the opioid epidemic, including for healthcare, education, social services, and criminal justice. Ohio has been one of the hardest hit states in the epidemic, with about one out of every 11 opioid-related deaths in the country occurring in Ohio.

Manufacturers also sued

The lawsuit against the four distributors follows earlier announcements by the state and a number of counties and cities that they would be filing lawsuits against pharmaceutical manufacturers. Those lawsuits allege that manufacturers fraudulently marketed opioids, especially by downplaying the risks of opioid use.

Manufacturers are responsible for packaging drugs, whereas distributors provide those drugs to hospitals, pharmacies, and other healthcare facilities. Both manufacturers and distributors are responsible under state and federal law for taking steps to prevent prescription drugs from being diverted away from legitimate medical needs. The lawsuits claim those distributors and manufacturers failed in that duty when the sheer number of opioids coming into Ohio should have indicated that widespread abuse was occurring.

Seeking legal help

The opioid epidemic has devastated families and communities across the country, especially in Ohio. Manufacturers and distributors have a role in preventing drug abuse, yet many companies have shirked the ir duties in a rush for greater profits. For those who have been directly impacted by the opioid epidemic, holding these companies accountable can provide some sense of justice. An attorney can help clients understand what their options may be, including how they may be able to hold negligent companies liable.