Lawsuits filed by EKY officials mirror Ex-DEA agents claims against drug companies

BELL COUNTY, Ky. (WYMT/CBS News) - Last month, more than one dozen counties in Eastern Kentucky filed federal lawsuits against three drug companies. Those three companies were also named by Ex-DEA Agent Joe Rannazzisi in an interview on CBS's 60 Minutes.

The lawsuits allege drug distributors "repeatedly and purposefully" broke state and federal laws, leading to widespread opioid addiction in Eastern Kentucky.

"The three largest distributors are Cardinal Health, McKesson, and AmerisourceBergen," Rannazzisi said to 60 Minutes's Bill Whitaker. "They control probably 85 or 90 percent of the drugs going downstream."

Those three companies mentioned by Whitaker are the same companies named in the lawsuits filed by Eastern Kentucky officials. Albey Brock, Bell County's judge-executive, tells WYMT these companies fuel an addiction that often puts county governments and employees in a tough spot.

"The opioid abuse that is taking place is putting pressure on local governments financially, primarily in our jails and law enforcement, a lot of our 911 calls that go to the sheriff’s office, when you dial it and boil it down, it's directly related to drugs," said Brock.

Rannazzisi said while he served in the DEA in the late 1990s, drug companies assured doctors and congressional investigators that pain medications were effective and safe. Then, with many doctors convinced the drugs posed little risk, prescriptions skyrocketed alongside addiction. Drug dealing now looked different for the DEA agent.

"These weren't kids slinging crack on the corner," Rannazzisi explained. "These were professionals who were doing it. They were just drug dealers in lab coats."

The lawsuits are filed, but in preliminary stages. No hearings are scheduled yet.

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