Oakland, Wayne sue drug makers over opioid crisis

Brooks Patterson announced the lawsuit in a Thursday press conference, accusing the drug companies of shifting the way doctors and patients view pain treatment in order to encourage widespread opioid prescription, leading to the rise in opioid-related deaths in MI.

"This is a full-blown health crisis from which the drug companies made billions", Executive Evans said.

Wayne and Oakland county executives announced a joint lawsuit today against several drug manufacturers and distributors, alleging the "deceptive marketing and sale of opioids" including OxyContin and Fentanyl. "People are dying and lives are being ruined by addiction as this disgusting tragedy unfolds".

The lawsuit states that the pharmaceutical companies deceptive marketing style of opioids to doctors promotes the idea that they could prescribe these addictive painkillers as an effective way to manage chronic pain.

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The complaint alleges that defendants, including McKesson, AmerisourceBergen, and Cardinal Health which are each among the top 15 companies in the Fortune 500, have reaped tremendous profits from these practices. It also seeks legal costs and damages from the pharmaceutical companies. In August, Gov. Rick Snyder established the Council on Opioid and Prescription Drug Enforcement after signing an executive directive aimed at combating the opioid crisis in MI.

Asked how the the counties chose to team up on the effort, Evans said: "It just so happened that Oakland County and Wayne County went to the same law firm. I think we're very, very comfortable that this firm is the firm that will do what we need to do".

"(There are) more opiate prescriptions in MI than there are people", Miller said. Lawsuits filed by the city of Chicago and the states of OH and MS are among several similar to the one filed by Oakland and Wayne counties.

"There was a concerted and tragically successful effort to get more doctors to prescribe these drugs while distorting the conversation about addiction", Miller said.

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"The human cost and the financial costs in two counties is significant", Evans said.

According to according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 22,000 Americans died from prescription opioid overdoses in 2015, an increase from 19,000 the year before.

"The opioid industry has taken a page out of big tobacco's playbook", Patterson said.

The suit states that in Wayne County opioid-related deaths have increased by 61 percent from 2015 to 2016 and in Oakland County, they've increased by 267 percent. "They put profits over people and now people are paying the price, some with their lives".

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Opioid-related deaths in Oakland County rose from 9 deaths in 2009 to 33 deaths in 2015.

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