Standing next to a coffin fashioned out of a prescription pill bottle, with flowers, stuffed animals and candles splayed out before it, Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish and prosecutor Mike O'Malley announced a civil lawsuit against a roster of major pharmaceutical companies and individual doctors. The aim: to prove in court that those companies and doctors willfully misled the public about the addictive and dangerous properties of opioid medication — and then profited wildly off the crisis that unfolded.
The medical examiner in Cuyahoga County has estimated that we'll see more than 800 opioid overdose deaths by the end of 2017. With the sheer force of that "slow-moving mass casualty event," as Dr. Thomas Gilson has put it, Cuyahoga County joins other counties, as well as cities and the state of Ohio itself
, in taking legal action.
Watch video of the county announcement here:
"This is an emergency," Budish said of the record-shattering annual death tolls from 2009 to the present. "The cost in human lives is truly tragic, and it knows no economic, geographic or racial boundaries." Opioid overdoses claimed more lives in Cuyahoga County in 2016 than homicides, suicides and car accidents combined.
Budish underscored that the county is shelling out millions in medical services, emergency services, law enforcement, employee insurance — costs that have risen in direct connection with the crisis.
The county's lawsuit, shepherded by personal injury attorney Paul Napoli (out of New York City), names Purdue Pharma LP, Teva Pharmaceuticals, Cephalon, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, McKesson Corporation, Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen Corp, as well as Robert Portenoy, Perry Fine, Lynn Webster and Scott Fisher.
Companies are holding their ground as these lawsuits move through the court process. Purdue Pharma has argued
that it followed FDA marketing guidelines in its distribution.
Read the full suit here: