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Lawsuits & Litigation

Colorado Sues Purdue Pharma Over Role in Opioid Crisis

— September 11, 2018

Colorado’s attorney general is suing Purdue Pharma, the creator and manufacturer of OxyContin.

The state’s chief prosecutor says the company must pay for its “significant role in causing the opioid epidemic.”

And the lawsuit, writes the Washington Post, claims that Purdue Pharma L.P. and Purdue Pharma Inc. effectively deluded physicians and patients in Colorado about the potential for addiction. Opioid distributors nationwide have fallen afoul of similar accusations, often based around their willingness to push prescription products over safer alternatives.

Somewhat surprisingly, Colorado’s suit comes amid news that Purdue Pharma’s former president, Richard Sackler, has patented a drug meant to treat opioid addiction.

“Purdue’s habit-forming medications coupled with their reckless marketing have robbed children of their parents, families of their sons and daughters, and destroyed the lives of our friends, neighbors and co-workers,” said Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman in a Thursday statement. “While no amount of money can bring back loved ones, it can compensate for the enormous costs brought about by Purdue’s intentional misconduct.”

The lawsuit, reports the Post, alleges that Purdue Pharma “downplayed the risk of addiction associated with opioids,” “exaggerated the benefits” and “advised health care professionals that they were violating their Hippocratic Oath and failing their patients unless they treated pain symptoms with opioids.”

A ‘lollipop’ derivative of fentanyl. Opioids kill nearly 40,000 Americans each year. Image via Crohnie/Wikimedia Commons.

Purdue Pharma has “vigorously” denied the claims stacked against it, telling the Post that, despite sharing “the state’s concern about the opioid crisis,” it never fed false information to healthcare providers about its products.

“The state claims Purdue acted improperly by communicating with prescribers about scientific and medical information that FDA has expressly considered and continues to approve,” said a Purdue Pharma spokesperson. “We believe it is inappropriate for the state to substitute its judgment for the judgment of the regulatory, scientific and medical experts at FDA.”

Hundreds of lawsuits have been levied at the opioid industry, many filed at various levels of government.

The Post says that 63,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2016—of those 63,000 dead, some 66% were killed by opioids.

The ‘Opioid Crisis,’ most strongly felt in the Midwest and Appalachia, has become a matter of national concern in recent years. In August, President Donald Trump asked U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to initiate litigation against companies like Purdue Pharma.

“I’d also like to ask you to bring a major lawsuit against the drug companies on opioids,” Trump told Sessions at an August conference. “Some state shave done it. But I’d like a lawsuit to be brought against these companies that are really sending opioids at a level that it shouldn’t be happening.”

Sessions concurred, adding that the Justice Department has already indicted some 170 physicians who’ve ‘unlawfully’ prescribed opioids.

Purdue, meanwhile, has been adamant in its deferment of responsibility, saying, “We share the state’s concern about the opioid crisis. While our opioid medications account for less than 2% of total prescriptions, we will continue to work collaboratively with the state toward bringing meaningful solutions to address this public health challenge.”


Colorado’s Attorney General Sues Purdue Pharma

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