Six More States File Opioid Abuse Lawsuits Against Purdue Pharma
U.S. state attorneys general of six more states, Florida, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Tennessee and Texas, have officially decided to file lawsuits alleging that Stamford, Connecticut, based pharmaceutical giant Purdue Pharma violated state consumer protection laws by denying or downplaying the risk of addiction from use of its bread-and-butter product, OxyContin, while exaggerating the benefits of opioid use. These six states announced their decision to file the lawsuits against Purdue, which primarily center around accusing the large drug manufacturer of contributing to the nationwide opioid epidemic by using deceptive marketing to generate billions of dollars in sales. Sixteen other states and Puerto Rico have all filed lawsuits against Purdue over the past several months.
“It’s time the defendants pay for the pain and the destruction they’ve caused,” said Florida State Attorney General Pam Bondi as the lawsuit was announced. She said that state attorneys general in California, Massachusetts, and New York were in the middle of preparing similar filings. Massachusetts already sent a letter to Purdue notifying the company of its intention to submit a lawsuit, although the exact date is still undetermined.
Endo Pharmaceuticals Inc., Allergan, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, Johnson & Johnson, and Mallinckrodt are also on the list of those being sued by the state of Florida, as well as distributors AmerisourceBergen Corp., McKesson Corp. and Cardinal Health Inc. The Healthcare Distribution Alliance stated that the accusations against distributors defied common sense and lacked understanding of pharmaceutical supply chain practices.
Earlier this year, in February, Purdue announced that it had stopped promoting opioids to doctors after there had been widespread criticism regarding the ways in which drug manufacturers market addictive painkillers such as OxyContin. The decision was an attempt to avoid overprescribing.
The company submitted the following statement in response to the six new states joining the litigation, essentially denying their accusations and reminding the states that the drugs were approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, “We are disappointed that after months of good faith negotiations working toward a meaningful resolution to help these states address the opioid crisis, this group of attorneys general have unilaterally decided to pursue a costly and protracted litigation process.”
Opioids were involved in more than 42,000 overdose deaths in 2016, the last year for which data was available, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Separate litigation regarding the crisis involving at least 433 lawsuits by U.S. cities and counties have been consolidated in a federal court in Cleveland, Ohio. The defendants include Purdue, J&J, Teva, Endo, AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson.
U.S. District Judge Dan Polster of Cleveland, nominated to his post by former President Bill Clinton, is currently overseeing the consolidated litigation. Polster has been meeting with those involved and pushing for a timely and cost-effective global settlement. He invited state attorneys general with cases not before him to participate if desired. Despite their decision to file separate lawsuits, the six attorneys general indicated they would continue to engage in settlement discussions with Purdue and the other drug companies facing litigation for their involvement in the crippling epidemic.