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Indy to Sue Drug Companies Over Opioid Epidemic

Hogsett accuses drugmakers of knowingly downplaying addiction risk

(INDIANAPOLIS) -  Indianapolis will sue at least three manufacturers of prescription painkillers.

Mayor Joe Hogsett says the city will take prescription drug manufacturers and distributors to court, demanding damages for the health and public safety costs of an opioid addiction epidemic. 345 people died of drug overdoses in Marion County last year, and Indiana has the most pharmacy robberies of any state, with Indy the hardest hit.

Attorney Irwin Levin, whose firm Cohen and Malad will pursue the case for the city, says three-quarters of Marion County Jail inmates who are arrested again after being released are addicted to opioids. 

Indy will be the first Indiana city to sue painkiller manufacturers, but at least three states and six cities and counties across the U-S have filed lawsuits accusing drug companies of downplaying the addiction risk of opioid painkillers. Barely an hour after Hogsett's announcement, New Jersey became the fourth state to lodge a similar suit. 

Levin charges drug companies should have been able to tell from their sales data that they were shipping far more pills than could possibly be justified by medical need, and had a legal obligation to alert authorities.

Levin says he's still reviewing who the defendants will be, but says there will be at least six, including Purdue Pharma, the maker of Oxycontin, and Endo Health, whose painkiller Opana is blamed for the HIV outbreak in Scott County. Endo yanked Opana off the market in July under pressure from the Food and Drug Administration, making it the first drug ever to be pulled over addiction issues.

Levin says he'll also target Teva Pharmaceuticals, and distributors Cardinal Health, McKesson, and AmerisourceBergen. He says he'll file the suit in "the coming weeks." 

Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett (Photo: Eric Berman/WIBC)

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