opioid epidemic | WOSU Radio

opioid epidemic

This month, attorneys representing Cuyahoga and Summit counties will try to convince a jury to hold the drug industry responsible for the opioid crisis.

The neighboring Northeast Ohio counties are among the more than 2,000 local governments, Native American tribes and other groups suing opioid manufacturers and distributors in federal court.

Although Cuyahoga County and Summit County just reached another lawsuit with an opioids manufacturer, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost says there's still time for the court to hear his argument to pause the landmark opioid court case for thousands of local government in order for the state's case to go first.

Johnson & Johnson and two Ohio counties have reached a tentative $20.4 million settlement that removes the corporation from the first federal lawsuit against opioid manufacturers, scheduled to begin later this month.

The state of Ohio is one of the bloodiest battlefields in the national war on opioids.

By 2017, Ohio was second to West Virginia in rates of overdose deaths — 5,111. State district attorneys are battling with the makers of prescription opioids, and the settlements will someday help pay for programs to help addicts.

In the U.S., the opioid crisis is about too many opioids. In some other parts of the world, the opioid problem is about the exact opposite — a lack of access to powerful pain management drugs. As pharmaceutical companies are being sued in the U.S. for flooding the market with opioids, doctors in West Africa say they can't even get hold of those painkillers.

When prescribed appropriately, opioids can be vital tools in hospitals and clinics. The drugs make patients more comfortable and can speed recovery.

Paige Pfleger / WOSU

At first glance, the people inside Franklin County Municipal Court room 13C have little in common. There’s a man in cutoff jean shorts with tattooed arms. Behind him sits a younger woman with freckles who looks like she came from soccer practice.

The group is bound together by circumstance: All were addicted to opioids and got in trouble with the law.

Updated at 4:02 p.m. ET

Federal prosecutors are charging 11 doctors with unlawfully distributing opioids and other substances, in the second large operation to target "pill mill" operators and health care fraud this year. Two other people also face charges in the sting.

"The alleged conduct resulted in the distribution of more than 17 million pills" in the Appalachian region, the Justice Department said.

Dave Yost speaks at the Ohio Republican Party event, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, in Columbus, Ohio. Yost was elected as the next Ohio attorney general.
Tony Dejak / Associated Press

After taking heat for arguing the state should have a lead role in next month’s huge opioid trial in Cleveland, Ohio’s attorney general says he thinks any money won should be spent at the local level.

Deadly heart infections linked to drug use rose nationally from 8 percent to 16 percent from 2002 to 2016, according to a new study from the Cleveland Clinic.

The majority of patients with the abuse-related illness were younger, low-income white males on Medicaid. Regionally across the United States, the Midwest saw the largest increases in these cases.

Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Sunday night, just days after striking a settlement with more than 2,000 local governments over its alleged role in creating and sustaining the deadly opioid crisis.

Purdue Pharma, the maker of the opioid drug OxyContin, has reached a tentative deal worth billions of dollars that would resolve thousands of lawsuits brought by municipal and state governments who sued the company for allegedly helping to fuel the opioid crisis.

The pending settlement likely means Purdue will avoid going to trial in the sprawling and complicated case involving some 2,300 local governments across 23 states.

A three-year, $13.2 million federal grant will help the Cuyahoga County Board of Health collect better data on opioid overdoses, health officials announced this week.

The county will get $4.4 million annually through 2021 to help the board gather and share numbers on suspected drug overdoses.

Charlie Neibergall / Associated Press

Thanks to a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Franklin County will receive nearly $4 million annually for the next three years to better track and respond to opioid abuse.

Opioid Lawsuits

Sep 3, 2019
Dave Yost speaks at the Ohio Republican Party event, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, in Columbus, Ohio. Yost was elected as the next Ohio attorney general.
Tony Dejak / Associated Press

Attorney General Dave Yost has had a bill drafted that would empower his office to take over local-government opioid lawsuits. The prospects for such an endeavor.

The measure has not been introduced, but already opponents are lining up against the plan.

Today on All Sides with Ann Fisher: who controls the opioid-related lawsuits in Ohio. 

West Park Avenue looks like an idyllic Columbus street: A-tree lined boulevard cuts through the middle, and every house has a porch and a small front yard.

But looking closer, it’s clear the neighborhood has been hit by the opioid crisis. A few houses are boarded up, and orange caps from syringes litter the sidewalk.

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