An Illinois prosecutor is trying to fight the opioid epidemic by taking drug companies to court.

Thursday, St. Clair County State’s Attorney, Brendan Kelly, filled a lawsuit against Purdue Pharma and Abbott Laboratories. The companies made and sold powerful painkillers.
The lawsuit alleges those companies knew how dangerous and addictive their drugs were, but misled the public about the safest way to use them.

“There's a direct connection between this industry's choice to push these drugs past what they should be used for, and what we're seeing in terms of heroin overdoses, fentanyl overdoses and any number of opioid-based pain issues,” Kelly said.

He said millions of hydrocodone and oxycodone pills have been prescribed in St. Clair County per year, far more than the number of residents. He filed the lawsuit on behalf of St. Clair County and the state of Illinois.

Prosecutors in other community around the country have filed similar lawsuits.

“This lawsuit isn’t just about recuperating the cost for the taxpayer, it’s about getting the pharmaceutical, the manufacturer, to become part of the solution instead of contributing to the problem,” he said.

A spokesperson from Purdue Pharma sent a statement in response to the lawsuit by email Thursday:

"We share public officials' concerns about the opioid crisis and we are committed to working collaboratively to find solutions. OxyContin accounts for only 2% of the opioid analgesic prescription market nationally, but we are an industry leader in the development of abuse-deterrent technology and advocating for the use of prescription drug monitoring programs."

Abbott also responded to a request for comment by email. A spokesman wrote:

Abbott no longer sells any pharmaceuticals in the U.S. and discontinued co-promotion with Purdue nearly 14 years ago.  Abbott is fully indemnified by Purdue for this matter.