“Its effect on a lawsuit is only going to be told by the settlements that will probably be reached or verdicts that will be made,” he said. “I’m not going to look into my crystal ball to see how that’s going to play out in a jury room, or a courtroom or in the board room. Those are the three areas that have yet to be told.”
The county’s lawsuit alleges the companies have violated racketeering laws by fueling the epidemic. Misuse of opiate painkillers leads to addiction in some people and has driven people to heroin when their pill supply dries up, the lawsuit says. The commissioners have said they hope an eventual settlement might bring about real solutions, like in tobacco litigation.
In the mid-1990s, the states’ attorneys general sued the four big tobacco companies, claiming their products caused significant cost to public health systems, among other allegations. A settlement was reached in 1998 that included a $205 billion payout over 25 years to 46 states. Four states settled individually.
Butler County Commissioner Don Dixon previously said that litigation was very successful and he believes the new wave of opioid litigation can have a similar impact. He said education and prevention are keys to beating the opioid epidemic.
“The county can’t do this financially on its own,” Dixon said. “This is the kind of money it’s going to take to have an impact, to have a real plan. I think the drug companies are responsible somewhat for that. I think the distributors are too, the more pills they sell the more money they make. It will be the beginning of a global solution.”
MORE: Butler County $3.6 million opiate plan gets cash infusion
The lawsuit was filed in conjunction with Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s lawsuit against drug companies in Ross Common Pleas Court last May.
DeWine’s lawsuit is focused on the manufacturers, while Butler County’s lawsuit — manufacturers were sued too — centers on the distributors who were federally mandated to monitor suspicious spikes in orders for the dangerous drugs, according to Gmoser.
DeWine was blunt in his statements about Purdue’s announcement.
“If they are truly serious about this, they could lead the way in cleaning up the mess they created and pay their fair share to fund desperately needed treatment, prevention education, naloxone, and expansion of the foster care system,” he said.
“Now is the time to step up to the plate, do what’s right, and take responsibility for their actions once and for all.”
Scott Rasmus, executive director of the Butler County Mental Health and Addiction Recovery Services Board, said it is good Purdue has taken handling opiate products out of the hands of the sales people and given responsibility to medical staff.
“This is a really good thing,” Rasmus said. “It’s just a shame this is only one pharmaceutical company and that it’s happening now and not months and years before.”