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Ohio sues drug distributors over opioid crisis

Ohio sued four pharmaceutical distributors over their alleged role in the opioid epidemic.

The lawsuit, filed by Attorney General Mike DeWine in a state court, targets McKesson Corp., Cardinal Health Inc., AmerisourceBergen Corp. and Miami-Luken Inc.

The suit alleges, among several counts, that the drug companies were negligent and created a public nuisance by using unsafe distribution practices and by irresponsibly oversupplying the market in and around Ohio with "highly-addictive prescription opioids."

DeWine stated that the companies failed to ensure that opioids were not being diverted for improper uses.

"They knew the amount of opioids allowed to flow into Ohio far exceeded what could be consumed for medically-necessary purposes, but they did nothing to stop it," DeWine said.

In addition, the lawsuit said the companies failed to act on their responsibilities under both federal and state law to stop orders that lead to oversupply and report suspicious orders to the United States Drug Enforcement Agency and the Ohio Board of Pharmacy.

The lawsuit also alleges that the companies should have known that the volume of opioids supplied far exceeded what could be responsibly used in markets in Ohio and would likely have contributed to the opioids being illegally diverted and abused. This behavior directly fueled the opioid epidemic the state is facing.

Ohio is seeking a number of remedies, including punitive damages and compensatory damages for costs incurred by the state.

The suit comes after similar legal actions taken by many other states against opioid manufacturers and distributors.

Most recently, Kentucky sued Cardinal Health for helping fuel the opioid epidemic by flooding the state with prescription opioids. Attorney General Andy Beshear's complaint accused the company of using unfair, misleading and deceptive business practices for excessively distributing prescription painkillers.

The lawsuit alleged that Cardinal Health reaped "a windfall off of the wave of addiction" in Kentucky by choosing profits over people.

In January, Delaware sued several major pharmaceutical companies and drug distributors, arguing that they played a role in fueling the opioid epidemic. The state said McKesson, Cardinal and AmerisourceBergen, as well as the two retailers, ignored red flags that the opioids were being diverted for illegal uses.