More than 75% of patients in the U.S. and Canada filled a prescription for opioids following four common surgeries, compared with 11% of Swedes, researchers report in JAMA Network Open. Americans also received the highest doses of opioids.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo blasted opioid manufacturers as New York plans to file a new lawsuit that seeks to recoup health insurance premium costs that were passed on to consumers. 

The lawsuit hasn't been filed, but it will allege that the opioid industry's actions defrauded health insurance companies and resulted in an estimated $2 billion more in premium costs for New Yorkers over a 10-year period. 

The state Department of Financial Services is leading the legal challenge. Linda Lacewell, the department's superintendent, said one goal of the lawsuit is to highlight the role pharmacy benefit managers have played in the opioid crisis. 

Pharmacy benefit managers, she said, are intermediaries between the health insurance and pharmaceutical companies. One of their functions is to determine how to induce consumers to get the drugs, according to Lacewell. 

"This opioid scheme has infected our health care system and our health insurance system," she said. 

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New York's new lawsuit is one of several targeting opioid manufacturers and other entities that are believed to be responsible for the crisis that killed more than 70,000 people in 2017. Cuomo said there were 3,000 opioid overdose deaths and 9,000 emergency room visits in New York last year. 

In March, state Attorney General Letitia James filed a lawsuit against six opioid manufacturers and the Sackler family for their roles in the epidemic. The Sacklers founded Purdue Pharma, which manufactured OxyContin — a form of oxycodone. The overprescribing of oxycodone and other painkillers has been blamed for starting the opioid crisis. 

Cuomo said the state's new lawsuit opens a new legal front to combat the epidemic. He believes opioid manufacturers, distributors and other entities were engaged in an "industry-wide conspiracy" that led to thousands of deaths and cost insurers billions of dollars. 

"They're not going to get away with it," he said. "This is the state of New York. You're not going to trample on our rights. You're not going to frighten us. We're going to make sure that justice is done." 

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Online producer Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or robert.harding@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.


Online producer and politics reporter

I have been The Citizen's online producer and politics reporter since December 2009. I'm the author of the Eye on NY blog and write the weekly Eye on NY column that appears every Sunday in the print edition of The Citizen and online at auburnpub.com.