New York City sues opioid makers and distributors

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NEW YORK (AP) — New York officials announced Tuesday the city is joining hundreds of other municipalities suing the nation's largest opioid manufacturers and distributors.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said the companies should be held accountable for the drug-abuse crisis.

"More New Yorkers have died from opioid overdoses than car crashes and homicides combined in recent years," de Blasio said, noting that more than 1,000 people in New York City died of a drug overdose involving an opioid in 2016, a record.

"Big Pharma helped to fuel this epidemic by deceptively peddling these dangerous drugs and hooking millions of Americans in exchange for profit."

The lawsuit seeks to recover a half-billion dollars in current and future costs the city says it will incur to combat the epidemic.

More than 200 lawsuits against drug companies have been brought by local communities across the country, including those in California, Illinois, Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia. The lawsuits have been consolidated into what is known as "multidistrict litigation," an approach taken when lawsuits of a similar nature are filed around the country.

It was not immediately clear whether New York's suit would be combined with others around the country.

Drug distributors and manufacturers named in the lawsuits have said they don't believe litigation is the answer but have pledged to help solve the crisis.

"We are deeply troubled by the prescription and illicit opioid abuse crisis, and are dedicated to being part of the solution," said John Puskar, a spokesman for Purdue Pharma L.P., one of the defendants in the New York litigation. "As a company grounded in science, we must balance patient access to FDA-approved medicines, while working collaboratively to solve this public health challenge."

Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc., spokeswoman Sarah Freeman called the allegations in the lawsuits baseless and unsubstantiated.

"Our actions in the marketing and promotion of our opioid pain medicines were appropriate and responsible," she said. "At the same time we recognize that opioid abuse and addiction are serious public health issues that must be addressed."