Minnesota county attorneys file lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies

In a passionate press conference, more than a dozen Minnesota county attorneys announced they filed civil lawsuits against manufacturers of prescription painkillers, accusing them of contributing to the opioid crisis in Minnesota.

“We must hold these corporate shlockmeisters responsible for their rapacious profiteering that has directly contributed to deaths, family breakups, hospitalizations and addictions,” said Pete Orput, Washington County Attorney.

Orput led the charge, but actually about twenty counties filed civil lawsuits against a long list of drug manufacturers and distributors for deceptive marketing.

“Those manufacturers through their aggressive and fraudulent marketing convinced thousands of physicians to write millions of prescriptions, which has led the us to consume four-fifths of all opioids in the world, yet we're only 4.6 percent of the population,” he said.

Between 1999 and 2014 more people died from prescription painkillers than heroin or other opioids. Over half of the overdoses in 2016 were opioid-related, which was up 12 percent from 2015.

“I gotta tell you it's so bad that when my phone rings at night I go into post-traumatic stress because it will be something like Sheriff Starry calling me with something like, ‘Another dead kid Pete, another dead kid,’” said Orput. “Well how many is enough?”

The crisis is not just in the metro area. Thursday evening, Duluth will hold a community meeting to teach residents how to use Narcan, the drug used to reverse an opioid overdose and hopefully save a life.

“And when you go home you can take a kit with you,” said Mark Rubin, St. Louis County Attorney. “How sad is that? That this is what is happening in our community.”

All counties are asking for accountability and restitution. They want the drug companies to help pay to fix what is now a major crisis.

Fox 9 received statements from several of the drug makers who say they are active in fighting addiction and deny any wrongdoing. Similar lawsuits are being filed in other cities and states around the nation, most of them have not been resolved. West Virginia did reportedly come to a settlement with 14 drug manufacturers, walking away with $40 million.