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Over-prescribing of opioid painkillers

FILE PHOTO: This Aug. 15, 2017, file photo shows an arrangement of pills of the opioid oxycodone-acetaminophen. (AP Photo/Patrick Sison)

ST. LOUIS • St. Charles County on Monday sued pharmacies and the manufacturers and distributors of opioids, seeking reimbursement for millions of dollars that county officials say they spend each year dealing with opioid abuse.

The suit follows on the heels of other jurisdictions in Missouri and around the country.

“There has been both a human and financial cost to this epidemic,” County Executive Steve Ehlmann said in a prepared statement announcing the suit. “I think just about every family in our county has been affected by this epidemic or knows a family who has been.”

Ehlmann said that opioid abuse has placed “a greater demand on law enforcement, health services, corrections and the courts,” as well as “community education programs and programs to treat those with opioid-related addiction.”

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in St. Louis, accuses drug companies of engaging “in a massive false marketing campaign” to promote opioids. It accuses companies in the supply chain of reaping “enormous financial rewards by refusing to monitor and restrict the improper distribution of those drugs.”

Among those named are Purdue Pharma, Endo Pharmaceuticals, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Teva Pharmaceuticals Industries, Allergan, Watson Pharmaceuticals, Mallinckrodt, Cardinal Health, AmerisourceBergen, CVS Health Corporation, the Kroger Co., Walgreens and Walmart.

This month, Jefferson County and 11 other Missouri governments filed a suit similar to those filed by local and state officials around the country.

The companies have rejected the allegations.