BROOKSVILLE, Fla. — Hernando County is suing the nation's largest pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors, arguing they played a role in creating widespread opioid abuse.

A county spokesperson said the local government has struggled to manage the costs associated with opioid abuse, including those related to drug poisoning and opioid deaths. The spokesperson said increased criminal activity has also been linked to the spread of opioids, causing increased expenses for law enforcement.

"The effects of opioid abuse have created other major public health concerns in Hernando County," the county wrote in a news release. "Opioid abuse, addiction, morbidity and mortality are hazards to public health and safety in the County, and constitute a public nuisance, which remains unabated."

Deputy County Attorney Jon Jouben said holding these companies accountable was a big step in the battle against the "opioid epidemic."

“We cannot simply sit back and let the greed of these drug companies continue to devastate our communities," Jouben said. "Our team is doing what we can to put a stop to this crisis.”

The lawsuit claims several high-profile drugmakers pushed dangerous opioids and deliberately misinformed doctors about how addictive they were. The county also claims three of the nation's largest drug distributors failed to monitor the situation, and retail pharmacies didn't report suspicious orders.

“The death toll from overdoses rises every day," Jouben said. "Overdoses are at an epidemic level across the country. Florida is only one state being ravaged by this atrocity. These companies knew what they were doing, they knew the effects of these drugs and they failed to notify the public. Taxpayers should not be held responsible for fixing a problem they did not create."

Below is the list of companies named in the lawsuit, as quoted directly in the county's news release:

"The companies named in the suit include: Purdue Pharma; Teva Ltd. (which acquired pharmaceutical maker Cephalon, Inc. in 2011); Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson); Endo Health Solutions, Inc.; Allergan PLC; Mallinckrodt; and Insys Therapeutics, Inc. Drugs manufactured by these companies include, but are not limited to: OxyContin, Actiq, Fentora, Duragesic, Nucynta, Nucynta ER, Opana/Opana ER, Percodan, Percocet, Zydone, Kadian and Norco. 

The suit also alleges that three of the nation’s largest drug distributors – Cardinal Health, AmerisourceBergen, and McKesson Corp. – failed to monitor, identify and report suspicious activity in the size and frequency of opioid shipments to pharmacies, in violation of the federal Controlled Substances Act. Additionally, the suit names the nation’s largest Retail Pharmacies – CVS, Walgreens and Walmart – for their role in failing to report suspicious opioid orders."

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