CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - Cuyahoga county filed a lawsuit against multiple drug companies Friday.
The suit alleges it is about "one thing: corporate greed." Alleging multiple companies put their "desire for profits above the health and well being of the County of Cuyahoga consumers" and now the county is paying to clean up the situation.
Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish made the announcement regarding the lawsuit Friday morning.
The suit alleges that multiple companies knew that "opioids were too addictive and too debilitating for long-term use for chronic non-cancer pain lasting three months or longer" but through a "sophisticated and highly deceptive and unfair marketing campaign" changed the perception of the drug.
"Cuyahoga County has been hit terribly hard by the opioid epidemic. In fact, we are on track to lose almost 800 people this year due to drug overdoses. This tragic epidemic is costing lives – our families are losing loved ones every day. In 2016, we lost more people to this epidemic than to deaths from homicides, suicides, and auto accidents combined. But it is also costing taxpayers. This year alone, we have had to bear the burden of increased costs to the Medical Examiner's office, increased costs of supplying drugs like Narcan to save victims of overdose, and additional cost of children in the foster care system because of a parent's death or drug addiction. This is an emergency. There is a direct correlation between the over prescription of opioid pain pills and addiction and subsequent deaths of our mothers, fathers, loved ones," said Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish.
The county is seeking real and punitive damages, and an order for the companies to clean up the "public nuisance" the suit alleges the companies created in Cuyahoga county.
Budish's announcement comes just days after President Donald Trump said a stronger law enforcement response is needed to combat the opioid crisis.
Speaking from his New Jersey golf club, Trump declared opioid abuse a national public health emergency and announced new steps to combat what he described as the worst drug crisis in U.S. history.
Cuyahoga County's opioid problem continues to grow with no end in sight. In January 2017, there were 46 fatal overdoses alone. As of June, it was predicted that the number of overdose deaths in 2017 would reach 775.
"We need to hold the drug manufacturers and distributors accountable whose corporate strategy was to push these opiates into our community for the sake of profit," said Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael C. O'Malley. "They are drug pushers on a national level."
Some of the manufacturer defendants include: Purdue Pharma LP, Teva Pharmaceuticals, Cephalon, Janssen Pharmaceuticals. The distributor defendants include: McKesson Corporation, Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen Corp.