COLUMBUS — Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said Friday that evidence recently made public makes clear that drugmakers were responsible for the deadly opioid crisis and that they had lied about the addictiveness of their painkillers.
The Republican urged the companies to move quickly to settle pending lawsuits seeking to hold them accountable for the epidemic in light of troves of new documents made public because of those suits.
“With what’s now public in the last two weeks about what these pharmaceutical companies have done, there can be no doubt in anyone’s mind that they are responsible for this,” DeWine said in a joint appearance at the Ohio Statehouse with U.S. drug czar Jim Carroll. “There is no doubt that they knew these drugs were addictive. There is no doubt that they lied to the public, that they lied to doctors.”
Overdose deaths in the U.S. had been climbing each year since 1990, topping 70,000 in 2017 but are projected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to have fallen slightly in 2018.
Drugmakers and distributors say there is no evidence that they illegally pushed unnecessary prescriptions that led to a drug crisis, and they argue that doctors, regulators and illegal drug sales played roles in the epidemic.
DeWine was Ohio’s attorney general when the state sued certain pharmaceutical companies over the opioid crisis. That case remains separate from the thousands of local government lawsuits consolidated under Judge Daniel Polster in Cleveland in which new information has been made public.
DeWine’s comments Friday came at an event to highlight record usage of Ohio’s prescription drug monitoring portal, an early national model for state tracking of the prescription painkillers at the heart of the deadly epidemic.
Carroll, the president’s chief drug policy adviser, said federal data released in conjunction with the suits that showed how drugmakers and distributors increased shipments of opioid painkillers across the U.S. as the addiction crisis accelerated from 2006 to 2012 will be invaluable as governments continue to respond.
He said that the data’s public release “is bringing light, publicly at least, to some of the harm that the pharmaceutical companies did in the past.”
“It took us years to get here and, as the governor talked about, it’s going to take us years to get out,” he said.
DeWine said his comments Friday weren’t about any particular suit, but he said he believes it’s time for the drugmakers to settle.
“These drug companies now have nowhere to hide. The public knows what has happened,” he said. “They should just come forward and try to settle this. That’s what they need to do.”
He said if they don’t settle, the drug companies will begin to see “very heavy verdicts,” as was the case with tobacco companies sued over the societal impacts of smoking.