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Opioids

Ten Cook County towns and a Central Illinois city are suing pharmaceutical companies and a trio of suburban doctors, claiming they contributed to the opioid epidemic that has claimed local lives and drained government coffers.

The suit, filed Wednesday morning in Cook County Circuit Court, is similar to those brought earlier by Chicago, Cook County and the collar counties.

It says the manufacturers of drugs such as OxyContin, Percocet and Actiq misled physicians and consumers about the medications' safety, and that distribution companies failed to sound an alarm as the opioids "flooded" into Illinois.

It also claims that three doctors who ran a Riverside pain clinic prescribed the pills indiscriminately, with no regard for their patients' actual needs or propensity for addiction.

The doctors -- Paul Madison, William McMahon and Joseph Giacchino -- had their Illinois medical licenses suspended or revoked, according to state records.

"Defendants' indifference has taken a dramatic toll on Plaintiffs' communities," the lawsuit says. "Drug abuse, addiction, overdose, and crime ... have imposed, and will continue to impose, tremendous social and economic costs on Plaintiffs."

The Cook County towns bringing the litigation are Melrose Park, Bellwood, Berkeley, Berwyn, Chicago Heights, Hillside, Northlake, Oak Lawn, River Forest and Tinley Park. Pekin, a city of 33,000 near Peoria, is the final plaintiff.

The communities are seeking compensation for the expenses they say they have accrued as a result of the doctors' alleged pill mill.

"It has impacted every corner of our village, from families being torn apart to the cost of law enforcement and health care," said Oak Lawn Mayor Sandra Bury. "We see the impact of this daily, often multiple times a day."

Hundreds of lawsuits against opioid manufacturers, distributors and pharmacies have been consolidated into a single federal case, presided over by a judge in Cleveland.

But Ari Scharg of Edelson PC, the Chicago law firm representing the municipalities, said they want to keep the case in a nearby court because it involves local issues.

That's why the towns included the doctors as defendants, contending their operation exported millions of pills locally and throughout the state.

"The presence of a local prescriber should keep us in state court, but we certainly anticipate that the pharmaceutical companies will try to remove this to (the federal case in Cleveland)," Scharg said.

Aside from the doctors, the defendants include manufacturers Purdue Pharma, Cephalon, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Insys Therapeutics, Endo Health Solutions, Actavis and Mallinckrodt, and distributors AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson.

Giacchino and McMahon could not immediately be reached for comment. In a brief phone conversation, Madison said, "This whole thing has become a witch hunt against doctors," but referred questions to his attorney, Phillip Oliver, who called the allegations baseless.

The companies have denied the allegations against them in other litigation.

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