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Howard County latest to sue opioid companies

Howard County became at least the 15th in the state to file suit against opioid manufacturers and distributors Friday.

The lawsuit was filed in Howard County Circuit Court and alleges companies such as Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of OxyContin, failed to disclose the risks of addiction and continued to tell doctors and consumers that opioids could safely be taken in higher doses over longer periods of time.

“We believe opioid companies have, for too long, knowingly deceived the public and manufactured a public health crisis,” Howard County Executive Calvin Ball said in a statement. “We must put a stop to their model of profiting off of our neighbors and loved ones.”

The county’s action comes one day after Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh announced the state filed an administrative action against members of the Sackler family, which founded Purdue Pharma, accusing them of guiding the marketing strategy for the company.

The defendant companies have denied the allegations in all of the lawsuits and stress their commitment to the appropriate use of their products and to combating the opioid epidemic.

Anne Arundel County filed suit against opioid companies in its circuit court in January 2018 and was the first jurisdiction in Maryland to do so. Since then, counties and cities across the state have filed in either their local courts or in U.S. District Court.

Howard County saw 38 opioid-related overdose deaths in 2018, according to the news release. Nationally, Maryland ranked fifth in opioid-related overdose deaths in 2017 with 32.2 fatalities per 100,000 people, according to data from the National Institutes of Health.

“As the opioid crisis continues to take the lives of our neighbors and their families in Howard County, opioid manufacturers and distributors have spread lies and profited off the public health emergency that they helped to create,” Howard County Council Chair Christiana Mercer Rigby said in a statement. “No corporation or entity should be exploiting people for monetary gain.”

The case is Howard County, Maryland v. Purdue Pharma L.P. et al., C-13-CV-19-000501.

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