Opioid Lawsuits On The Rise

A growing number of Illinois counties are suing the makers of opioid pain pills to recoup the cost of treating addicts, but one researcher in Illinois says the drug companies alone are not the only ones with a role in the state's opioid crisis. 

Champaign County is the latest county to join the lawsuit against the makers of opioid pain medications. 

The thought is to hold the drug makers accountable for the rapid spread of addiction. But Jesse Hathaway, a research fellow at the Heartland Institute, said the drug companies aren't the only ones with a role to play. 

"The seven states with the highest rates of drug overdoses were West Virginia, New Hampshire, Kentucky, Ohio, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts," Hathaway said. "There's something else those states have in common. Those states had just expanded Medicaid coverage, which also includes more access to prescription drugs."

Hathaway says both the CDC and the Government Accountability Office note the link between Medicaid and Medicare and the opioid crisis. 

"According to the Centers for Disease Control, there are a number of peer-reviewed, academic studies that suggest Medicaid enrollees are twice as likely to be prescribed opioids as people in private insurance," Hathaway said. 

Hathaway is not suggesting that counties who are suing drug makers also sue the state and federal government, although he is saying that there are more people to blame for the explosion of opioid addiction than just the companies that made the pills.