Ohio sues five drug companies over role in opioid epidemic

The state of Ohio has taken five major drug manufacturers to court for their role in the opioid epidemic. In the lawsuit filed on Wednesday, state attorney general Mike DeWine alleged that the companies had "helped unleash a healthcare crisis that has had far-reaching financial, social, and deadly consequences in the state of Ohio."

The suit has named Purdue Pharma, Endo Health Solutions, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries and subsidiary Cephalon, Johnson & Johnson and subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals.

In the lawsuit, which comes as the second filed by a state, after the one brought by Mississippi earlier this year the companies stood accused of engaging in a sustained marketing campaign to downplay the addiction risks of the prescription opioid drugs they sold and to exaggerate the benefits of their use for health problems such as chronic pain.

DeWine's office said in a release: "Lawsuit alleges that the drug companies engaged in fraudulent marketing regarding the risks and benefits of prescription opioids which fueled Ohio's opioid epidemic."

"We believe that the evidence will show that these pharmaceutical companies purposely misled doctors about the dangers connected with pain meds that they produced, and that they did so for the purpose of increasing sales," DeWine told NPR. "And boy, did they increase sales."

The state is seeking an end to the misrepresentation of the drugs by the companies who, it says should also pay damages for the amount of money the state spent on excessive opioid prescriptions and resulting addiction treatments for patients. The state is also seeking reimbursement for the patients from the companies.

Janssen said in a statement that the lawsuit was legally and factually unfounded and the company had acted appropriately and responsibly.

Purdue said it shared the concerns voiced by DeWine about the opioid crisis and wanted to work together on a solution.