Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) said drug companies responsible for distributing billions of opioids to Americans, leading to an epidemic of addictions and overdose deaths, should be required to help those hurt by the drug.

On the Senate floor on Thursday, Portman delivered a lengthy speech in response to The Washington Post’s investigation that revealed drug companies were able to circulate 76 billion pain pills from 2006 to 2012.

“The more we find out about the sheer pain of the pills that these drug companies pumped into the United States, more than 76 billion overall during that period — 76 billion pills, that’s with a ‘b’ — the more it is clear that lawsuits like this are going to be necessary to get to the bottom of what happened and require these entities to help those affected by these pain pills.”

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Portman’s home state is where the first civil trial against drug companies will take place in October, barring a settlement. Two Ohio counties hit hard by the opioid epidemic are asking drug companies for billions in restitution for their role in saturating the nation with addictive pain medications.

Referencing The Post’s reporting, including a database that shows how many pills were distributed in every county in America over a seven-year period, Portman said the companies’ shipments showed the intent was to “spread them, not just in Ohio, but in other places, causing immense harm, because people got addicted to these pills and turned to heroin, fentanyl, and many of these people are the people who not just have an addiction but end up having overdoses and many of them also dying.”

That’s especially true in Ohio, which has been ravaged by drug overdose deaths. In 2017, there were 5,111 deaths — only second per capita behind West Virginia.

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The senator has been a leading voice in Congress on combating the epidemic, speaking close to 60 times about it on the floor and spearheading legislation in 2016 to open up more federal funding for states to use on treatment and recovery programs.

On the other side of the Capitol, Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), called on the House Energy and Commerce Committee to conduct its own investigation of “opioid manufacturers.” Walden chaired the panel in the last Congress when it passed dozens of opioid-related bills that were packaged and became law.

“We now know 76 billion pain pills flooded the country as unsealed internal company documents show — with vivid detail — how the opioid distribution got out of control,” Walden said, referring to The Post’s reporting. “This work is too important; the truth must be exposed.”

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