February 26, 2018 / 8:09 PM / 25 days ago

Ohio accuses drug distributors of helping fuel opioid epidemic

(Reuters) - Ohio on Monday accused four major pharmaceutical distributors of ignoring their responsibilities to ensure that opioids were not being diverted for improper uses, contributing to a drug abuse epidemic in the state.

FILE PHOTO - A needle used for shooting heroin and other opioids litters the ground on a sidewalk in the Kensington section of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S. October 26, 2017. REUTERS/Charles Mostoller

The lawsuit by Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine was filed in a state court against McKesson Corp, Cardinal Health Inc, AmerisourceBergen Corp and Miami-Luken Inc and marked the second he has pursued over corporations’ roles in the opioid crisis.

“They knew the amount of opioids allowed to flow into Ohio far exceeded what could be consumed for medically necessary purposes, but they did nothing to stop it,” DeWine said in a statement.

The lawsuit seeks compensatory damages for the increased costs Ohio incurred for healthcare, criminal justice, social services and education. It also seeks punitive damages.

The companies have previously denied similar allegations in other cases, and Cardinal Health in a statement on Monday called the lawsuit “unfounded.”

AmerisourceBergen in a statement said it was committed to mitigating the diversion of opioids without interfering with clinical decisions made by doctors. McKesson said it has in the last year alone reported thousands of suspicious drug orders.

Opioids were involved in more than 42,000 overdose deaths natiionwide in 2016, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Hundreds of lawsuits by states, counties and cities have accused drugmakers of pushing addictive painkillers through deceptive marketing and wholesale distributors of failing to report suspicious drug orders.

DeWine previously in May 2017 sued Purdue Pharma LP, Endo International Plc, Johnson & Johnson, Allergan Plc and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd, accusing them of deceptively marketing opioids. They have denied wrongdoing.

Reporting by Nate Raymond in BostonEditing by Jonathan Oatis and Matthew Lewis

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