AKRON Area communities are coming together to fight the opiate epidemic, which continues to hold a strong grip on the local area.
During a press conference in Summit County Council Chambers, 22 communities joined Summit County Executive Ilene Shapiro in filing a lawsuit against three distributors of pain pills.
Joining the county is Akron, Barberton, Boston Heights, Boston Township, Clinton, Copley Township, Coventry Township, Cuyahoga Falls, Fairlawn, Green, Lakemore, Mogadore, Munroe Falls, Norton, Peninsula, Richfield, Silver Lake, Stow, Springfield Township, Tallmadge, Summit County Public Health and Valley Fire District.
The lawsuit names 11 drug makers: Purdue Pharma. L.P.; Purdue Pharma, Inc.; Purdue Frederick Co. Inc.; Teva Pharmaceuticals USA; Cephalon, Inc.; Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; Janssen Pharmaceutica Inc.; Endo Health Solutions Inc.; Endo Pharmaceuticals Inc.; and Insys Therapeutics, Inc.
The three named distributor defendants are McKesson Corp., AmerisourceBergen Drug Corp. and Cardinal Health. The lawsuit alleges these companies freely distributed opioids into Summit County. It also claims that the manufacturing defendants created the mass market for prescription opioids and the distributor defendants flooded it and are responsible for delivering opioids marketed and made by the manufacturing defendants to pharmacies throughout the country.
No tax payer dollars are being spent on the lawsuit.
Deputy Law Director Greta Johnson said the officials reached out to all 31 communities in Summit County to see if they wanted to join the lawsuit. She said the county went to cities, townships and villages and made presentations about what the county planned to do.
She said the decision was up to each community if they wanted to join, but some communities went their own direction in the fight against opiates.
"We will likely add more communities to the complaint," Johnson said.
Shapiro said the lawsuit is an important step for the county in the opioid fight. In October 2017, she declared a county-wide emergency due to the effects of opioids.
"I am very proud to stand here with my colleagues," Shapiro said.
The number of unintentional drug overdoses in Summit County rose from 56 in 2011 to 298 in 2016. Between 2012 and mid-August 2017, 1,053 Summit County residents have died from drug overdoses.
She said the lawsuit sends a strong message that the communities in Summit County are united.
Barberton Mayor Bill Judge said Barberton has been greatly impacted.
"We are losing a generation, a generation of young adults," Judge said.
Cuyahoga Falls Mayor Don Walters said this lawsuit isn’t about the financial aspect, it is about protecting the next victim. Walters said Cuyahoga Falls was the first city to launch a quick-response team.
Summit County Health Commissioner Donna Skoda said addiction is a brain disease and the fight against opiates has been unfair.
"Public health is all about prevention," Skoda said.
Attorney David Ackerman for Motley Rice said they are grateful to work with everyone and said by everyone coming together and that the county is taking an aggressive stand. Motley Rice has other opiate cases filed in Alaska, Kentucky, New Hampshire, Montana, South Carolina, Chicago and Santa Clara County in California.
Ackerman said the Summit County case could encounter delays and pushback from attorneys representing the drug companies.