DALLAS – On Aug. 2, the Dallas law firm of Baron & Budd announced that they have filed lawsuits on behalf of four Ohio counties against the nation’s largest pharmaceutical distributors for their alleged role in the widespread diversion of prescription opiates for nonmedical purposes.

The counties represented in these cases are: Belmont, Brown, Clermont and Vinton Counties. The law firms of Greene, Ketchum, Farrell, Bailey & Tweel and Levin Papantonio are also representing the plaintiffs.

The counties allege that three Fortune 500 pharmaceutical distributors – Cardinal Health, AmerisourceBergen, and McKesson Corp. – each played a role in creating a public nuisance by failing to regulate orders of prescription opiates.

“It’s easy to think addicts or a small number of bad doctors are to blame for this problem. But responsibility for the opioid epidemic rests with the pharmaceutical industry – and in particular the pharmaceutical distributors who were entrusted with reporting suspicious orders and halting orders of these dangerous drugs,” said Baron & Budd Shareholder, Burton LeBlanc.

“These companies need to put real dollars back into Ohio communities to combat the public nuisance they have created.”

In 1970, Congress created a “closed” chain of distribution specifically designed to prevent the diversion of legally produced controlled substances into the illicit market. In this system, distributors purchase prescription medicines and other medical products directly from manufacturers and then fill orders placed by pharmacies, hospitals, long-term care facilities, clinics and other healthcare providers.

The closed-system requires wholesale distributors to monitor, identify, halt and report “suspicious orders” of controlled substances.

Opioids are widely diverted and improperly used throughout Ohio.

In Vinton County, for example, in 2015, enough opioids were dispensed that every county resident could have received 105.3 doses of the addictive medication.

Widespread diversion in counties throughout Ohio have resulted in the rising number of heroin users, escalating rates of unintentional drug overdoses, more children forced into the foster care system and increased budgetary constraints placed on several departments including public health and law enforcement, according to a press release.

Widespread opioid use has also led to a spike in drug overdose cases in Ohio. In Clermont County, for example, the number of unintentional drug overdoses nearly doubled between 2013 and 2015.

Belmont, Brown, Clermont and Vinton Counties are seeking damages to cover the costs of services including, but not limited to: medical care and treatment for patients suffering from opioid-related addiction or disease; treatment of infants born with opioid-related medical conditions; costs associated with caring for children whose parents suffer from opioid addiction; and law enforcement and public safety services related to the opioid epidemic.

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