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Boone, Kenton Counties Sue Opioid Companies; First Responders Get Reversal Medication Donation

Tana Weingartner
Aetna's Dan Knecht demonstrates how to administer Narcan, a nasal spray that reverses the effects of opioids.

Boone and Kenton counties plan to sue three of the country's largest wholesale drug distributors. Fiscal courts in both counties say AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, and McKesson Corporation are a big reason for Northern Kentucky's opioid epidemic.The votes by both courts to file suit come just as first responders in Northern Kentucky are getting more than 700 doses of Narcan (naloxone), the overdose reversal drug, from Aetna.

"We've been told that the opiate distributors are guilty of ignoring the laws that they were supposed to subscribe to ending opiates," said Boone County Judge Executive Gary Moore at the news conference formally announcing the donation of 720 Narcan kits.

"When they were given licenses to distribute opiates they were to track any spikes or increases in dosages and report that to various agencies including the DEA," says Moore. "Since their inception, they have not done it."

Moore says attorneys the county is working with say the county could have "a very good case" against the distributors. He adds any money the county might win in court would go back into fighting the epidemic.

Ashel Kruetzkamp says St. Elizabeth Healthcare recorded more than 1,300 known heroin overdoses from January to July, 2017. When you factor in overdoses from other opiates and drugs like fentanyl, Kruetzkamp says the number swells to more than 1,700 just for the first half of 2017.

Based on those numbers, Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin says the 720 doses of Narcan from Aetna should last the region about four months. Of course, first responders are reporting more frequently they need several doses to revive a single patient.

Earlier this year, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced a lawsuit against five major drug companies for helping "unleash a health care crisis that has had far-reaching financial, social, and deadly consequences in the State of Ohio."

Clermont County and the City of Cincinnati followed suit several months later.

Gov. Bevin says the commonwealth averages three overdoses per day. "It is increasingly as likely that you will interact with somebody who needs Narcan - in certain parts of our state and country - as you will somebody who needs CPR."