Clermont County, just east of Cincinnati, plans to sue pharmaceutical companies over the opioid crisis. the county prosecutor, commissioners and court of common pleas have hired a West Virginia law firm to go after distributors.
Commissioner David Painter says opiate abuse has created a serious public health and safety crisis, with the number of people addicted to pain pills and heroin climbing more than 400 percent in the last 10 years.
"The Controlled Substance Act of 1970… requires manufacturers to be able to sell opiates through a closed distributorship,” Painter says. “And that closed distributorship… requires that any upticks or any increases or unusual orders of opioids in a particular regional area be immediately reported to the DEA and that those opioid shipments be stopped.”
The suit does not identify a specific damage amount the county is seeking. Painter says that will come out as the suit works through the courts.
Any money the county receives will go toward reimbursing the county for what it's spent so far, and for prevention, law enforcement, treatment and recovery efforts.
"That being laid onto the backs of taxpayers is not fair in the fact that they never created this epidemic. The distributors did," Painter says.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine filed an opioid-related suit in federal court in late May. Painter says Clermont County's suit is different.
"He has filed against the manufacturers. We believe the manufacturers created prescription drugs such as oxycodone and Oxycotin in accordance with federal law," Painter says. "Distributors were supposed to be the watchdog for the federal government. And that distributorship is recognized not only in federal law, but in state law. And we believe they have violated the law, and therefore caused Clermont County to declare that lack of due diligence as a nuisance in this county."
The city of Dayton filed suit against manufacturers, distributors and some physicians in June.
The law firm Greene, Ketchum, Farrell, Bailey & Tweel of Huntington, West Virginia, is working on a contingency fee basis. Painter says he believes the firm has also been in contact with Brown and Scioto county officials.