Judge invites Ohio attorney general to discuss opioid crisis


By Andrew Welsh-Huggins - Associated Press



Associated Press

Eds: Updates with additional details. With AP Photos.

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A federal judge who’s overseeing lawsuits from around the country against the pharmaceutical industry has invited Ohio’s attorney general to brief him on the impact of the opioid epidemic in the state.

Judge Dan Polster in Cleveland is overseeing a consolidated case involving dozens of suits filed by communities against drugmakers and drug distributors.

The judge invited Republican Attorney General Mike DeWine to appear on Jan. 31 to discuss fallout from the epidemic in Ohio, DeWine said Thursday.

DeWine, a candidate for Ohio governor, said he was invited as a representative of the 13 states that have filed their own lawsuits against drug companies, but will focus his remarks on Ohio.

A message was left with Polster seeking comment. The judge said in courtroom comments Tuesday he’d like some kind of action to resolve the lawsuits this year.

The opioid epidemic has hit Ohio hard, with a record 4,050 overdose deaths in 2016, a number expected to climb again in 2017. Many of those deaths involve heroin or even deadlier synthetic opioids like fentanyl.

Increased reliance on naloxone, an antidote drug used to revive overdose victims, has strained the budgets of many Ohio communities. The state foster care system also says the number of children in custody because of their parents’ drug use is soaring.

“I would hope to be able to present to him what we see is going on in Ohio, where we think the damages have occurred and are continuing to occur,” DeWine said.

DeWine sued five drug makers last year, accusing the companies of perpetrating the state’s addictions epidemic by intentionally misleading patients about the dangers of painkillers and promoting benefits of the drugs not backed by science.

Twelve other states have filed similar lawsuits which are separate from those before Polster, which are generally lawsuits brought by cities or counties against drugmakers and drug distributors.

The other twelve states, according to DeWine’s office, are: Alaska, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Washington state.

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This story has been corrected to show Ohio reported record overdose deaths in 2016, not last year.

By Andrew Welsh-Huggins

Associated Press

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