CHICAGO (CBS) — Pharmaceutical companies are the target of a lawsuit filed by Kankakee County in response to the growing opioid overdose crisis.

The lawsuit accuses drug-making companies with aggressive and fraudulent marketing of painkilling opioid drugs, leading to the heroin epidemic that’s taking more and more lives every year.

Officials say there have been 44 opioid-related overdose deaths in Kankakee County so far this year, which is eight more than last year’s end of the year total.

State’s Attorney Jim Rowe says that pharmaceutical companies that recklessly distribute opioids into his community are nothing more than heroin dealers in business suits.

“The communities in Kankakee County, and the county itself, that have had to spend, I guess, rare resources to combat this pandemic — we’d like to be compensated for that.”

The lawsuit says, “The county seeks relief in the complaint that includes compensatory and punitive damages, for the millions of dollars it spends each year to combat the public nuisance created by the drug companies’ deceptive marketing campaign that misrepresents the safety and efficacy of long-term opioid use.”

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Kankakee is not only seeking money damages to help pay the mounting costs from the crisis, but it is also seeking to deter pharmaceutical companies from continuing to do what they’re accused of doing.

Rowe says the epidemic is costly in other ways, as well.

“People now live on streets where they find heroin needles right out in front of their home, where kids play,” he said. “That certainly results in a declined quality of life and impacts the community as a whole.”

In addition to Kankakee County, similar lawsuits have been filed in New York, Louisiana, Connecticut and Pennsylvania.

WBBM Newsradio has reached out to the spokesperson for Abbott Laboratories, one of the Chicago-area pharmaceutical companies named in the lawsuit.