A federal appeals court has rejected Purdue’s bid to reverse a ruling last month allowing New Hampshire to pursue litigation against the OxyContin manufacturer claiming the company deceptively marketed opioids in state rather than federal court. The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston denied Purdue’s request for permission to reverse and appeal the decision.
Deputy Attorney General Ann M. Rice originally filed a civil lawsuit on behalf of the state of New Hampshire. The official complaint alleged the company failed to report to New Hampshire authorities deceptive practices involving prescribing of opioids, while it promoted its “constructive role in the fight against opioid abuse” and “strong record of coordination with law enforcement.”
“Over the past two years, our office has conducted an extensive investigation into Purdue’s marketing of OxyContin and its other products in New Hampshire,” said Deputy Attorney General Rice said. “New Hampshire continues to experience a severe opioid epidemic. Last year alone nearly 500 overdose deaths occurred—almost ten times more than in 2000. In 2016, the Deputy Administrator of the DEA called New Hampshire ‘ground zero’ of the opioid epidemic. The CDC reports four out of five heroin users started with prescription opioids. To defeat the epidemic, we must stop creating new users and part of that is making sure these highly addictive and dangerous drugs are marketed truthfully and without deception and in such a way as not to minimize addiction risks or overstate benefits to patients.”
The Complaint also claimed that Purdue aggressively marketed its opioids to treat chronic pain and failed to disclose that there is no credible scientific evidence that opioids are actually safe or effective for such pain, misrepresented evidence regarding the effects of long-term opioid use and misrepresented the drugs’ risks and benefits, including the potential for users to become addicted.
The drug manufacturer has been hit with a multitude of lawsuits as of late, which it has been thus far unable to reverse, and has combated the litigation instead with several major ad campaigns intended to show its commitment to fighting against addiction and opioid abuse. However, many public officials and industry experts are saying the company needs to do much more to prove its commitment to the fight. And, many public officials have expressed their disbelief in the genuineness of the company’s concern.
“It’s an advertising technique that is trying to reframe their image in the community and their association with the opioid crisis,” said Debbie Danowski, an associate professor of communications and media arts at Sacred Heart University. “From what I can see in this ad, it’s kind of a lot of talk and not any real concrete action. Imagine the number of people they could be helping by using the money they’re spending on those ads on treatment centers for those who have become addicted to their drugs.”
In 2007, Purdue and three of its executives pleaded guilty to criminal charges for deceptive conduct and the court ruling required the company to pay $735 million in total. New Hampshire wasn’t included at the time. As part of the settlement, Purdue acknowledged that its sales and marketing team falsely represented that OxyContin “caused less euphoria, had less addiction potential, had less abuse potential, was less likely to be diverted than immediate-release opioids.”