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Ohio sues 5 drugmakers over opioid addiction crisis

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine filed a lawsuit against five drugmakers alleging they fueled an opioid epidemic in the state by engaging in fraudulent marketing regarding the risks and benefits of prescription opioids.

Companies named in the suit are Purdue Pharma LP, Johnson & Johnson and unit Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc., Endo International PLC unit Endo Health Solutions, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. and its Cephalon unit, and Allergan PLC.

Purdue sold OxyContin, MS Contin, Dilaudid, Butrans, Hyslingla and Targiniq; Endo Health sold Percocet, Percodan, Opana and Zydone; Teva and its subsidiary Cephalon sold Actiq and Fentora; Johnson & Johnson and its unit Janssen sold Duragesic and Nucynta; and Allergan sold Kadian, Norco and several generic opioids.

DeWine said the companies led prescribers to believe that opioids were not addictive, that addiction is easy to overcome, or that it could be treated by taking more opioids, adding that the drugmakers knew "they were wrong but they did it anyway" and continue to do so.

The lawsuit, filed in Ross County Court of Common Pleas, alleges that the companies violated Ohio consumer sales practices act and created a public nuisance by disseminating false and misleading statements.

The suit seeks to declare that the companies' actions were illegal, and aims to stop their continued deceptions and misrepresentations and to lessen the harm they have caused. It also seeks damages for the money that the state spent on the opioids the companies sold and marketed in Ohio and for other costs of their deceptive acts; and repayment to consumers who paid for unnecessary opioid prescriptions.

Johnson & Johnson told The Wall Street Journal in a statement, that it believes the claims in the lawsuit to be "legally and factually unfounded," adding that it has acted appropriately, responsibly and in the best interests of patients regarding its pain medications. It also stated that the medicines carry FDA-mandated warnings about the known risks.

According to the publication, Purdue Pharma said that it shares DeWine's concerns about the crisis and is committed to working collaboratively to find solutions.