Officials in Kansas and Oklahoma are asking the court system to intervene against manufacturers they believe have not done enough to help prevent the opioid crisis.

In late May, Valley Hope, Norton, Kansas, filed a lawsuit against large pharmaceutical manufacturers regarding the opioid epidemic.

“Valley Hope filed this lawsuit because of the irresponsible and profit-driven distribution of opioids by drug manufacturers with no regard to how addictive these drugs can be,” President and CEO Pat George said in a media release issued May 30.

“The epidemic costs our country $78.5 billion a year in healthcare costs, lost productivity, addiction treatment services and criminal justice involvement. I’ve seen firsthand the tragic effects of opioid addiction on individuals and families. We must do everything we can to bring this epidemic to an end.”

According to The Hays Daily News, Valley Hope’s suit alleges manufacturing companies engaged in “false, deceptive and unfair” marketing techniques that, in part, were designed to convince doctors opioids could be used for chronic pain instead of only short-term, acute pain. It also accuses the companies of targeting susceptible medical providers and vulnerable patient populations.

Shelly Elkington, whose daughter Casey Schulte was addicted to opioids before she died, has advocated for similar measures against big pharmaceutical companies, she said. This session in Minnesota, she and others lobbied in support of a bill that would have added a small fee on pills to help pay for prevention and treatment.

It didn’t pass, she said. But she continues to advocate.

Doctors and others need educating, she said. Those with a friend or family member dealing with addiction need to intervene before it is too late.

Meanwhile, in June 2017, Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter filed a lawsuit on behalf of the state of Oklahoma against the manufacturers of opioids, including Purdue Pharma LP, Johnson & Johnson, Allergan Plc and units of Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd.

“The allegations are that these manufacturers intentionally misled doctors and the public to the addictive nature of opioids and they need to be held responsible for the current crisis and to help fund current and future treatment,” said Terri Watkins, communications director for the Oklahoma Attorney General. The lawsuit will be heard in Cleveland County, Oklahoma, in May 2019, and is the first in the country to get a trial date. Other states, including Texas, Montana, New Mexico and Missouri, are also filing similar lawsuits against opioid manufacturers. Watkins said any financial judgment will be set aside for the specific treatment of opioid addiction in Oklahoma. 

According to, more than 600 state, county and city governments in the U.S. have filed opioid-related lawsuits as of May 2018, and more are expected.

Amy Bickel can be reached at 620-860-9433 or Jennifer M. Latzke can be reached at 620-227-1807 or

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