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Counties Sue Drug Companies Over Meth Ingredient Sales

About fourteen counties in Arkansas have filed a class action lawsuit against makers of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine claiming the companies knowingly sold far more ingredients for methamphetamine than was required for any legitimate use.

The complaint which was filed in Independence County Circuit Court contends that drug companies such as Pfizer Inc., Johnson and Johnson, Warner Lambert, and others profited greatly from selling methamphetamine ingredients in the form of medicine to illegal methamphetamine makers. The suit asks that the counties be compensated for monies the counties expended in the fight against illegal methamphetamine production and use.

The lawsuit says the defendants fought government efforts to manage the sale of cough medicine throughout the 1980s and 1990s, knowing that if methamphetamine makers were not permitted access to the necessary ingredients that the companies' profits would fall. Once such legislation was enacted, methamphetamine abuse did drop substantially in areas where controls were put into place.

Other counties are considering joining in the action. Last month, members of the Washington County Economic Recovery Rebates Committee met to consider a resolution to join the suit. The members were encouraged to view a special report by the Public Broadcast Service (PBS) called The Meth Epidemic.

"There's nothing really for us to lose," Washington County Attorney George Butler told reporters. The county would pay no legal fees unless the lawsuit was successful.

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