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Major Party Gubernatorial Candidates Weigh In On State's Lawsuit Against Drug Makers

Ohio Public Radio

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine's lawsuit against five drug companies is drawing mixed reaction from Republican and Democratic gubernatorial candidates. Ohio Public Radio's Jo Ingles reports.


DeWine filed suit against the five drug companies, saying they deceived doctors and Ohioans about how addictive their painkillers are.


“These drug companies knew that what they were saying was wrong. But they did it anyway and they continue to do so.”


DeWine says these companies should pay damages to the state that could then be used to fight Ohio’s opioid crisis. The timing of the lawsuit is notable, since DeWine is putting together his campaign for governor next year. Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted will be running against DeWine in the primary next year. He says if the drug makers broke the law, they should be held accountable but Husted says the lawsuit will take years. And he says Ohio can’t wait.


“We are number one in the nation in opioid deaths. But if we were number one in the nation in education or job creation, I promise you we would not be number in opioid deaths because we have got to do a better job of lifting people up out of the circumstances they are in, both in terms of treatment and economic and educational opportunities.”


Northeast Ohio Congressman Jim Renacci is also running for Governor next year. In a written statement, Renacci said it’s important to get opioid abusers into treatment. He says while the lawsuit might have some positive effects in the long term, defeating the crisis will not only require state dollars but also support from community organizations and churches. And he said good paying jobs would be a strong ally against the hopeless feeling that fuels the epidemic. Another potential candidate for governor in 2018, current Lieutenant Governor Mary Taylor, told the Dayton Daily News this issue is personal for her. Taylor explained her two sons have fought their own battles against opioid addiction. In a written statement, she called the lawsuit a distraction from the real issues and went on to say the problem calls for a comprehensive solution.


On the Democratic side, Senator Joe Schiavoni says DeWine’s lawsuit is a good first step but thinks local communities might have grounds to sue as well.


“And then of course there’s the bill that we proposed that would tap into the state’s rainy day fund, using ten percent of that fund in order to deal with education, police force and rehabilitation services so I think if we go after this problem in those three different ways…….you know, going after the drug manufacturers, even if there’s a settlement down the road or a finding of guilt, that’s going to be years and years down the road.”


Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley mentioned holding drug makers accountable in her gubernatorial campaign launch. She says the lawsuit is long overdue but she says more needs to be done to help local communities like hers.


“You know we are seeing a 15% increase in ambulance runs right now in the city of Dayton. Our police and first responders are exhausted from the opiate addiction issue as well as other issues that are affecting our communities and the Statehouse crowd is just completely out of touch with what’s going on in communities.”


Former northeast Ohio congressional member Betty Sutton says the lawsuit against drug makers should have been filed a long time ago. But she also says more needs to be done.


“And it must be a top priority for the state to combat this in every way including with declaring a state of emergency to help coordinate the effort to battle this crisis.”


Another Democrat in the race, former state representative Connie Pillich, says the parties at fault need to be held accountability but adds there’s no silver bullet. In a written statement, she says Ohio needs a comprehensive solution that includes Medicaid expansion to provide treatment for patients and support for families in need.


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