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Punish Ohio pill pushers

More than 10 years ago, a representative for a pharmaceutical distributor wrote of the opioid products his company was receiving “Keep ’em comin’! Flyin’ out of here. It’s like people are addicted to these things or something. Oh, wait, people are…”

In reply, a sales representative for Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals wrote “Just like Doritos keep eating. We’ll make more.”

In fact, over a period of 20 years, hundreds of millions of suspicious opioid orders were shipped to just two counties in Ohio, according to a motion filed in the U.S. District Court in the Northern District of Ohio by attorneys for Summit and Cuyahoga counties.

Approximately 400 defendants — drug manufacturers, distributors, pharmacies and practitioners — are in the crosshairs of Ohio attorneys moving against the “legal” drug pushers who sparked the substance abuse crisis under which our state is now suffering. Documents show that for some of those defendants, “these ‘suspicious order’ shipments represented as much as 80 percent of the total opioid transactions and as much as 92 percent of the dosage units shipped” in Summit and Cuyahoga counties.

Folks in those counties point out not all those drugs stayed local. In fact, because of the major interstate highways running through (including I-77), pharmacies in the area were an appealing place for those who wanted to pick up the drugs and then send them on their way, for a profit.

Defendants are accused of intentionally “turning a blind eye” to the plague they knew they were setting loose — either failing to create or ignoring the Suspicious Order Monitoring systems they were required to put in place. That would have cut into the bottom line.

A 2008 email exchange between those same two representatives is just as nauseating.

“[i]f you are low, order more. If you are okay, order a little more. Capesce?” the Mallinckrodt rep wrote.

Meanwhile, between 2003 and 2011, Mallinckrodt stopped and reported only 33 suspicious orders.

Though the substance abuse epidemic has evolved, attorneys in Summit and Cuyahoga counties are right to go after that kind of malicious greed. No amount of money will bring back the 5,000 Buckeye State residents per year killed by opioid overdoses. But should they be found liable for the beginnings of this epidemic, the companies at fault should be forced to pay the most the law will allow.

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