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Kenton, Boone Counties to Sue Opioid Distributors

Boone and Kenton Counties are suing wholesale drug distributors, accusing them of misconduct and of contributing to the opioid/heroin issues in the region.

Each county's fiscal court voted Tuesday to sue separately. Their targets are the USA's largest wholesale drug distributors: AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, and McKesson Corporation. According to a news release, the three companies have combined annual revenues of $400 billion and control more than 80 percent of the prescription opioid market.

The two counties issues a news release on Tuesday that read in part:

Because prescription opioids are highly addictive, Congress enacted a system in 1970 to control the volume of opioid pills being distributed.  In exchange for being selected to be among a small group of wholesalers permitted to distribute opioids, these companies agreed to halt orders that indicated abnormal or suspicious activity.  There is evidence that the companies failed to fulfill this duty, and Boone and Kenton counties are among many communities currently paying the price for that failure.

The news release said that the two counties will be working with other communities in Kentucky, Ohio, and other states and with a group of law firms to go after the distributors.

“We are pursuing this lawsuit because the opioid scourge has placed a heavy burden on our local governments, while wholesale distributors maximized their profits," said Boone County Judge/Executive Gary Moore. "Much like a drug dealer, they ignored the harmful impacts and poisoned our community. I have personally witnessed the devastation that our families experienced as a result.  These companies must be held accountable which will allow for greater investment in law enforcement, treatment, education and prevention efforts to relieve the effects of the opioid epidemic.”

“Based on the information presented to us, wholesale drug distributors ignored their legal obligations," said Kenton County Judge/Executive Kris Knochelmann. "Instead, they chose to pursue maximum profits from the sale of opioid pills. Our community is spending millions of dollars mitigating the impact of corporate decisions flooding Northern Kentucky with highly addictive opioid pills, and we have an obligation to our citizens to seek remedy from those who unlawfully profited from this epidemic.”

The two counties also highlighted their other efforts in fighting heroin, such as treatment programs, a helpline, and the volunteer-driven door hanger campaign.

Both counties are also deploying Quick Response Teams (QRT), which are composed of a police officer, a firefighter, and a rehabilitation specialist. The QRT team goes out each week, contacts those who overdosed, and offers them the opportunity for treatment. 

-Staff report