The Ohio attorney general sued five drugmakers on Wednesday for their alleged role perpetrating the state's addiction epidemic, accusing the companies of intentionally misleading patients about the dangers of painkillers and promoting benefits of the drugs not backed by science.
Attorney General Mike DeWine said the companies created a deadly mess in Ohio that they now need to pay to clean up.
"This lawsuit is about justice, it's about fairness, it's about what is right," DeWine said in announcing the complaint filed in Ross County, a southern Ohio community slammed by fatal drug overdoses from painkillers and heroin.
A record 3,050 Ohioans died from drug overdoses in 2015, a figure expected to jump sharply once 2016 figures are tallied.
DeWine wants an injunction stopping the companies from their alleged misconduct and damages for money the state spent on opioids sold and marketed in Ohio. The attorney general also wants customers repaid for unnecessary opioid prescriptions for chronic pain.
DeWine, a Republican expected to run for governor next year, joins other states that have filed similar lawsuits. His move also comes as other candidates in the governor's race have made holding pharmaceutical companies' accountable for their role in the crisis a campaign issue.
Democratic candidate Nan Whaley, the Dayton mayor, is airing online video spots in which she criticizes sitting Republicans for doing too little to solve the heroin and opioid epidemic. Whaley says taking on drug companies for their role in the crisis will be her highest priority as governor.
Another gubernatorial contender, Democratic state Sen. Joe Schiavoni, said he had previously called for such an action.
"I hope that whatever financial settlement this lawsuit might bring will be put toward helping the victims of this epidemic," he said. "In the meantime, the General Assembly must do more to provide the resources our counties desperately need now for drug treatment and other services."
In 2015, Kentucky settled a similar lawsuit with Purdue Pharma in December 2015. The company agreed to pay Kentucky $24 million as part of the settlement of a long-running lawsuit that accused the company of misleading the public about the addictiveness of the powerful prescription drug OxyContin.
Oregon reached a settlement in 2015 with opioid painkiller manufacturer, Insys, for off-label promotion of Subsys, a fentanyl spray more powerful than heroine. It was also among 27 states that reached a settlement with Purdue, the maker of OxyContin, in 2007.
The drugmakers sued by DeWine are Purdue Pharma; Endo Health Solutions; Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, and its subsidiary, Cephalon; Johnson and Johnson and its subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals; and Allergan.