Two counties in Northern Ohio are suing drug manufacturers, the first case in a series of lawsuits that will test the legal responsibility of pharmaceutical companies for consumers’ problems with opioid abuse.
The Washington Post reported last week on the lawsuit brought by Cuyahoga and Summit counties. Scheduled to begin in October, this case will be the prelude to series of consolidated lawsuits brought by 2,000 cities, counties, Native American tribes, and other plaintiffs. Drug companies have previously paid more than $1 billion in fines to the Justice Department and Food and Drug Administration over opioid-related issues.
A court order recently forced the Drug Enforcement Administration to release data tracking the path of “every single pain pill” sold in the U.S. The data shows that more than 76 billion oxycodone and hydrocodone pills were distributed across the country between 2006 and 2012.
In 2016, the death rate from pharmaceutical opioids in Cuyahoga County was reportedly 3.26 times higher than the national average. In 2017, emergency rooms treated an estimated 9,191 patients for drug-related problems, 21 percent more compared to the previous year.
Also in 2017, Summit County was reportedly so overwhelmed by the rapid increase in overdose deaths that the county medical examiner brought in a mobile morgue to deal with the extra bodies.
The New York Times recently reported some better news on pharmaceutical opioids. Preliminary data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that the total number of national drug overdose deaths declined 5 percent in 2018, the first drop in decades.
Not all the numbers are so hopeful, however. Deaths involving fentanyl are still on the rise. Out of the nearly 69,000 U.S. deaths from drug overdoses in 2018, nearly 32,000 involved fentanyl or a similar drug.
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