Ohio Attorney General wants opioid lawsuit settled soon

Local News

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said he sent a letter to big drug companies telling them they have 30 days to come forward and begin settlement talks. In May DeWine’s office filed a lawsuit against five big pharmaceutical companies alleging  they promoted the use of  opiates for long-term pain creating a drug epidemic.

“We have to have a sense of urgency about this. We have to have a sense that this is a crisis in the state of Ohio,” DeWine said. “We have to target the people who created it,” DeWine said.

The lawsuit names Purdue Pharma, Endo Health Solutions, Teva Pharmaceutical, Johnson and Johnson and Allergan.

“Do you see them coming forward with a huge education plan that they could roll out, that helps the people in the state of Ohio, helps kids from becoming addicted in the future? No, you don’t see them do any of this. I am going to make them do it,” DeWine said.

Scott Weidle’s son Daniel died of a drug overdose after his father said he got hooked on prescription opioids.

“This current epidemic did not start on a street corner, it started in a doctor’s office,” Weidle said.

He agrees with the state’s lawsuit and said they should shoulder their responsibility for the drug epidemic, but would like to see it taken further.

“Now that we have trained our doctors to use opioids it is a habit that is hard to break. And until we get legislation in place that causes some hard limits, we will struggle with this issue for years to come,” said Weidle.

A proposed state law referred to as Daniel’s Law, named after Weidle’s son would limit the amount of opiates a doctor could prescribe and only for acute pain, not chronic. He said the law has language to grandfather folks already using opioids. But he said it could be next year before it sees the light of day on the statehouse floor.

DeWine said he has a twelve point Ohio recovery plan.

  1. Pass legislation to give the Governor the ability to declare a public health emergency statewide or in specific areas, which would allow for the distribution of money and other resources to local entities that are facing unexpected emergency conditions like overdose spikes, and creating an accelerated process for state licenses or approvals in critical professions such as the medical or social work fields as well as expedited licensing reciprocity with other states.
  2. Create a 21st century law enforcement data infrastructure that allows real-time, statewide data sharing and brings state-of-the-art data analytics and crime prediction to every Ohio law enforcement agency.
  3. Expand proven drug task force models that specifically target and disrupt the flow of money and drugs from Mexican drug cartels.
  4. Create at least 60 more specialized drug courts.
  5. Double the substance use treatment capacity in Ohio.
  6. Expand workforce of critical specialists.
  7. Empower employers to help employees with substance use disorder to seek treatment while remaining employed.
  8. Help business owners hire employees in recovery by offering employers incentives and reducing risks.
  9. Create a special position reporting directly to the Governor with Cabinet-level authority, who works every day with the single-minded focus of fighting the opioid epidemic.
  10. Implement proven Kindergarten-12th-grade drug prevention education in all Ohio schools.
  11. Roll out a statewide drug prevention media campaign
  12. Expanded early intervention programs that target Ohio families and children in foster care.

DeWine said that these initiatives should be paid for by the people who are chiefly responsible for the crisis – and that is the drug companies.

According to statistics from the AG, 14 people die every day from this drug epidemic and it is costing the state $5 million every day.

Only one of the five drug companies responded so far to NBC4’s request. Allergan Director of Corporate Affairs Mark Marmur said, “Allergan intends to work cooperatively with Attorney General DeWine, as we have in the past, on this issue. Allergan has a history of supporting — and continues to support — the safe, responsible use of prescription medications. This includes opioid medications, which when sold, prescribed and used responsibly, play an appropriate role in pain relief for millions of Americans.

It is also important to put into perspective Allergan’s role regarding opioids. Allergan’s two branded opioid products – Norco and Kadian – account for less than 0.08% of all opioid products prescribed in 2016 in the U.S. These products came to Allergan through legacy acquisitions and have not been promoted since 2012, in the case of Kadian, and since 2003, in the case of Norco. “

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