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Opioids. By Our Student Pharmacist, Mackenzie Piché.


In a statement issued by Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, he accused five leading drug manufacturers of providing a dishonest and misleading representation of the true risks of taking opioid painkiller medications.

“We believe the evidence will also show that these companies got thousands and thousands of Ohioans — our friends, our family members, our co-workers, our kids — addicted to opioid pain medications, which has all too often led to use of the cheaper alternatives of heroin and synthetic opioids.  These drug manufacturers led prescribers to believe that opioids were not addictive, that addiction was an easy thing to overcome, or that addiction could actually be treated by taking even more opioids. They knew they were wrong, but they did it anyway — and they continue to do it.  Despite all evidence to the contrary about the addictive nature of these pain medications, they are doing precious little to take responsibility for their actions and to tell the public the truth.” – Mike DeWine

Ohio’s legal action against Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, Purdue Pharma, Allergen, and Endo Health Solutions comes shortly after a lawsuit issued by the Attorney General of Mississippi with similar implications. More states are following suit. Missouri announced on June 21 that it will also be suing drug manufacturers of opioid analgesics. Ohio’s lawsuit suggests that these manufacturers misinformed doctors regarding the potential dangers of prescription opioids in order to increase sales.

The lawsuit could result in the drug companies being required to pay a huge sum of money. Aside from the hundreds of millions of dollars spent on prescription opioids in the past decade by state-funded programs like The Ohio Bureau of Workman’s Compensation and Medicaid, there are additional substantial costs associated with the opioid epidemic. For example, about $45 million are spent to transition children of addicted parents into foster care. Even more costly, is the $105 million used to treat babies born with neonatal abstinence syndrome, which occurs when a child is born addicted to opioids due to exposure during gestation. Lastly, about $110 million is spent on treatment centers for those recovering from opioid addiction. Ohio argues that many of these costs would have been preventable if the drug companies had been more upfront about the potential risks of prescription painkillers.

Ohio is considered to be a frontrunner in the opioid epidemic and, according to The Columbus Dispatch, had the most fatal drug overdoses of all 50 states in 2016. Montgomery County in Ohio is among the hardest hit. So far this year, 365 individuals have died due to drug overdoses. Montgomery County’s Sheriff reported that they are on track to have 800 overdose deaths this year, which is more than double the county’s total amount in all of 2016. The majority of the opioid-related overdoses are due to heroin or fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine. These substances are often snorted or injected to cause a rapid high, and can quickly cause physical and emotional dependence.

Four out of five heroin users began by misusing prescription opioids. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration defines medication misuse as “the intentional or unintentional use of medication without a prescription, in a way other than prescribed, or for the experience or feeling it causes.”

Despite many different opinions circulating on the lawsuit, all we can hope for is a brighter tomorrow, with a better balance between adequate pain relief for those who need it and support and recovery for those in the community struggling with addiction.


Ohio Attorney General DeWine Files Lawsuit Against Opioid Manufacturers for Fraudulent Marketing; Fueling Opioid Epidemic. Ohio Attorney General News Releases. May 31, 2017. http://www.ohioattorneygeneral.gov/Media/News-Releases/May-2017/Attorney-General-DeWine-Files-Lawsuit-Against-Opio

Borchardt, J. Ohio’s opioid lawsuit against 5 pharma companies: 6 things to know. Cleveland. com. June 16, 2017. http://www.cleveland.com/metro/index.ssf/2017/05/ohios_opioid_lawsuit_against_5.html

Dwyer, C. Ohio Sues 5 Major Drug Companies For ‘Fueling Opioid Epidemic’. National Public Radio. May 31, 2017. http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/05/31/530929307/ohio-sues-5-major-drug-companies-for-fueling-opioid-epidemic

Johnson, A., Candisky, C. Overdose Deaths Continue to Soar in Ohio. The Columbus Dispatch. May 28, 2017. http://www.dispatch.com/news/20170528/overdose-deaths-continue-to-soar-in-ohio

Llorente, E. Ohio Drug Overdose Deaths in One County Already Top Last Year’s Total. Fox News. June 5, 2017. http://www.foxnews.com/us/2017/06/05/ohio-drug-overdose-deaths-in-one-county-already-top-last-years-total.html

Opioid Addiction: 2016 Facts and Figures. American Society of Addiction Medicine. https://www.asam.org/docs/default-source/advocacy/opioid-addiction-disease-facts-figures.pdf

Prescription Drug Misuse and Abuse. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. October 18, 2015. https://www.samhsa.gov/prescription-drug-misuse-abuse

Soboroff, J., Koss, M., Heikkila, A. ‘Mass-Casualty Event’: Ohio County Now Tops U.S. in Overdose Deaths. NBC News. June 19, 2017. http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/mass-casualty-event-ohio-county-now-tops-u-s-overdose-n773936

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