New Philadelphia, Ohio - Tuscarawas County officials are moving to hold pharmaceutical companies accountable for practices they say contributed to the area’s opioid crisis.
County commissioners announced last week that attorneys had filed a lawsuit on behalf of Tuscarawas County against the makers and distributors of prescription opioids.
Attorney Josh O’Farrell of the Canton law firm Tzangas, Plakas & Mannos helped prepare the 214-page complaint that was filed January 25th in the county’s Common Pleas Court. He says the suit is against a lengthy list of companies they believe knowingly engaged in deceptive practices to market, distribute and sell prescription opioids.
"They were aware of how highly addictive these drugs were but they concealed that fact and affirmatively communicated to doctors the opposite, that these drugs were non-addictive, that they were safe, that they could be prescribed for extended periods of time knowing full well that the opposite was true and that these opioid drugs were highly addictive," he says.
Defendants named in the suit include the makers of Oxycontin, the top three nationwide distributors of prescription opioids, and the Walgreens and CVS retail pharmacy chains. O’Farrell says they believe these companies’ actions fueled the market for illicit drugs like fentanyl and heroin.
"As a result, people who had leg injuries or knee replacements or back injuries, they went on these drugs believing that they were safe, that they would not become addicted, and their lives have been ruined as a result, and it created this need for people to go out and find drugs in order to satiate this high that they needed as a result of their addiction," he explains.
O’Farrell says they’re asking for a legal remedy to prevent future generations from falling victim to those companies’ marketing practices.
"From 2010 to 2017, Tuscarawas County’s population was approximately 92,557, right around that range. During that time and as a result of the deceptive and misleading and really diabolical marketing scheme that these defendants entered into, Tuscarawas County alone received a total of 47,246,409 retail doses of opioids," he says. "That’s just a startling number."
They’re also seeking compensation for expenses incurred by the county.
"The opioid crisis has affected so many people’s lives throughout this country but also in Tuscarawas County. I think everybody knows someone or some family who has been affected by this crisis, and the county has had to shoulder a significant burden in addressing these issues, and so it’s only right and fair that the county be compensated for all they’ve had to do to combat this crisis," he says.
Commissioner Al Landis says he believes the lawsuit sends a strong message that Tuscarawas County stands united with the other communities impacted by this crisis.
"I think it’s important for them to know and for our constituents here in Tuscarawas County to know that we’re fighting back, you know. And we want people to know that, hey, we have been adversely affected here in Tuscarawas County, and we’re going to do all we can to protect us," he says.
O’Farrell says it’s impossible to predict at this point how long it will take for the matter to be resolved, although he says they will be keeping a close eye on several test cases that are pending in federal court.
STACEY CARMANY, TUSCO TV