Within the past year, at least 25 states, cities and counties have filed civil cases against manufacturers, distributors and large drugstore chains that make up the $13bn-a-year opioid industry. In the past few weeks alone, the attorneys general for Ohio and Missouri, along with the district attorneys for three counties in Tennessee, filed suits against the industry - and the attorney general for Oklahoma filed suit June 30.
The strategy echoes the effort against major tobacco companies in the 1990s and is born of similar frustration over rising death rates and the increasing costs of addressing the continuing public health crisis. After years of government and pharmaceutical firms failing to control the problem, some lawyers say the suits have the potential to force the industry to curb practices that contribute to it.
“If they’re not going to do it voluntarily, we’re going to drag them to the table and make them,” said Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, who sued five drug manufacturers for the costs of the opioid epidemic.
Dozens of other state, county and city governments and local law enforcement agencies are considering legal action. Some states are interviewing law firms.
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