The city of Cincinnati wants three major drug distributors to pay for the opioid epidemic.
The city is the latest to file suit against AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, and McKesson Corporation. A federal lawsuit alleges the companies let an epidemic run unchecked. A release from the city says those three companies account for 80 percent of the market for prescription opioids.
The city is asking for reimbursement for costs for dealing with overdoses. Hamilton County Heroin Coalition director John Young said Interact for Health put out a study in 2015. "The idea at that time was that it would cost an additional 12.5 million in treatment funds to abate the problem, at that time. We all know that it's grown."
Hamilton County's coroner has said the number of opioid related overdose fatalities climbed by 100 from 2015 to last year.
Mayor John Cranley said the companies have ignored a 1970 federal law requiring distributors to monitor, report, and halt suspicious activity in the form of large or frequent opioid shipments to hospitals and pharmacies.
"They've admitted that they knew it was suspicious and they didn't report, they didn't investigate, they didn't do anything despite knowing the tragedy and travesty they would be wreaking on the country. Because the fines they were forced to pay were just the cost of business," Cranley said.
Attorney Paul Farrell Jr. says manufacturers have made some of the most addictive drugs ever, and distributors have ignored laws meant to curb their abuse.
"We are representing several communities in the Ohio River valley. We're asking for a court to bring legal justice. So that this isn't just a speeding ticket. What it is is the cost of business is cleaning up the mess that you created."
Cincinnati is seeking reimbursement for the costs of dealing with opioid overdoses, including the use of Narcan, rescue personnel hours, and treatment. Farrell's firm is also representing Clermont County in a similar lawsuit. Dayton has filed suit against manufacturers and distributors. The state of Ohio is suing manufacturers.
Updated 4:40 p.m.
Ohio-based Cardinal Health released a statement in response to Cincinnati's suit:
"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. We are industry leaders in implementing state-of-the-art controls to combat the diversion of pain medications from legitimate uses, and have funded community education and prevention programs for a decade. We operate as part of a multi-faceted and highly regulated healthcare system – we do not manufacture, promote or prescribe 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 do nothing to stem the crisis. We will defend ourselves vigorously in court and at the same time continue to work alongside regulators, manufacturers, prescribers, pharmacists and patients to fight opioid abuse and addiction."
AmerisourceBergen also released a statement:
Representatives for McKesson said in a statement: