The counties join hundreds of cities, counties, states, and tribes that have sued companies—including Purdue Pharma, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, and Endo—for aggressively advertising opioids to doctors as safer than they really were. Many researchers, experts, and activists think that the overprescribing of opioids has resulted in some patients getting addicted, then turning to the black market for more pills or for heroin, which is chemically similar. The companies have denied the allegations.
Overall, California actually has a lower opioid overdose death rate than many states in the Northeast and Midwest, but certain regions have been harder hit. State data from 2016 shows that, in some counties in California's rural north and Central Valley, there are more opioid prescriptions than residents, which could be a sign of overprescribing. Many of these counties are now filing the new lawsuits.