With addiction rates rising, NY counties join march to sue opioid manufacturers

With addiction rates continuing to climb, officials in New York's Broome County say they're looking to do what states such as Illinois and New Hampshire have done: sue opioid manufacturers for misleading the public about abuse risks associated with the drugs.

County Executive Debbie Preston told TWC News that the county is in the process of hiring a law firm that is also representing Suffolk County on Long Island in a similar suit against opioid drugmakers.

Addiction to painkillers has reached epidemic levels in the U.S. in the past few years.

In August, the Attorney General of New Hampshire accused Purdue Pharma, which makes the highly addictive opioid Oxycontin, of failing to aid his investigation into its marketing of the drug

Only a week earlier, Illinois AG Lisa Madigan filed suit against Phoenix, AZ-based Insys Therapeutics ($INSY), accusing the company of targeting doctors, who then prescribed high volumes of an opioid nasal spray to patients whose pain didn't qualify for the med. The drug, Subsys, was FDA-approved only to treat cancer pain, yet it was used for patients with back pain and other maladies.

Purdue, Allergan ($AGN) and Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) have also been sued by the city of Chicago, which accuses the drugmakers of contributing to a dramatic rise in opioid and heroin addiction in the city. Chicago is seeking to recover some of the costs of dealing with the epidemic, and it filed an amended complaint this week detailing those costs.

Opioid makers should emphasize the dangers of their meds rather than downplay or simply disclose them, Broome County's Preston said: "Shouldn't they be out there doing an ad stating what the real risks are with opioids and what it can lead to?”

The county, she added, believes the drugmakers are at the root of the addiction epidemic and need to bear some of the burden local governments face, such as costs associated with treatment, rehabilitation and law enforcement.

"We have to stand up and say enough, and … people have to be held responsible," she said.

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