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Drug Makers Sued For Allegedly Starting Heroin Crisis

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Three Tennessee prosecutors and the guardian of a baby born addicted to opioids are suing major U.S. pharmaceutical companies, alleging deceptive marketing sparked the addiction crisis.

Three district attorneys representing areas of Tennessee hit hardest by addiction announced the legal action Tuesday at Niswonger Children’s Hospital in Johnston City, Tenn. The lawsuit targets Purdue Pharmaceuticals, the makers of the painkiller OxyContin, Mallinckrodt PLC and Endo Health Solutions, which develop a number of painkillers. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, for the first time in history, ordered Endo June 8 to pull their painkiller Opana ER from the market due to reports of abuse, reports U.S. News and World Report.

The legal guardian of a now 2-year-old child who was born addicted to opioids is also part of the lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages to the state including medical expenses and drug treatment. The unidentified infant spent 14 days in intensive care. Doctors gave him morphine to ween him from opioids and court documents say the infant is suffering from learning disabilities and ongoing health issues.

“Baby Doe spent his first days in the neonatal intensive care unit writhing in agony as he went through detoxification,” says the lawsuit filed Tuesday, according to U.S. News and World Report.

A spokesman for Purdue Pharma, which often comes under the harshest scrutiny, said they are committed to solving the opioid addiction crisis. A representative of the drug maker previously noted their medication OxyContin accounts for less than 2 percent of the prescription opioid market in the country.

There are more prescriptions for opioids in Tennessee than there are people, highlighting the high rates of addiction in the state. The heroin overdose death rate across the state spiked 43.5 percent between 2014 and 2015.

Officials in Ohio joined the group of states suing the major pharmaceutical companies May 31 for fueling the opioid epidemic by allegedly deceiving the public about addiction risks. Ohio is being hit particularly hard by the national opioid epidemic, which claimed more than 60,000 lives in 2016, according to a recent estimate by The New York Times.

Lawsuits are mounting against the largest drug makers for their alleged complicity in sparking the opioid crisis through dishonest advertising. The law firm Simmons Hanly Conroy LLC is spearheading cases in New York, as well as two lawsuits in California, two in West Virginia, one in Chicago and one in Washington state.

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