New Jersey sues OxyContin
maker, links marketing to opioid crisis
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[November 01, 2017] By
(Reuters) - New Jersey on Tuesday sued
Purdue Pharma LP, accusing the maker of the chronic pain medication
OxyContin of fueling the state's opioid crisis through deceptive
marketing to doctors and patients, including the elderly and the "opioid-naive."
The state's attorney general, Christopher Porrino, faulted what he
called Purdue's "almost inconceivable callousness and
irresponsibility" in a decade-long campaign of downplaying the risks
and exaggerating the benefits of opioids in the pursuit of profit.
"We vigorously deny these allegations and look forward to the
opportunity to present our defense," Purdue said in a statement. "We
are deeply troubled by the opioid crisis and we are dedicated to
being part of the solution."
At least 11 U.S. states have sued Purdue over opioids, including a
complaint filed by Alaska on Monday.
Other drugmakers also face lawsuits by state and local governments
over an opioid epidemic that President Donald Trump last Thursday
called a national public health emergency.
Opioids, including prescription painkillers and heroin, played a
role in 33,091 U.S. deaths in 2015, up 16 percent from 2014,
according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
New Jersey's 103-page lawsuit filed in Essex County Superior Court
accused Purdue of engaging in unconscionable practices, making false
claims, and creating a public nuisance, costing the state hundreds
of millions of dollars in prescription costs.
The state said Purdue misled people into believing OxyContin and
other opioids could treat chronic pain over the long term, as an
alternative to over-the-counter medication such as Advil and
Tylenol, though there were no studies showing their safety and
effectiveness beyond 12 weeks.
New Jersey said Purdue drove sales representatives to promote
opioids to as many as 40 doctors a week in person, and set annual
prescription quotas as high as 8,400 for OxyContin alone.
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It quoted a former sales rep as saying she knew OxyContin dosages
would rise as patients' tolerances increased, and struggled to meet
her quotas because she thought patients should not "go down that
road" if they had safer alternatives.
Alaska's complaint filed in Anchorage Superior Court raised similar
legal claims. Governor Bill Walker in a statement said many Alaskans
"would have never become addicts without that initial prescription
that went on too long."
OxyContin was launched in 1996.
Last Wednesday, Purdue said it was cooperating with a U.S.
Department of Justice probe related to OxyContin.
In 2007, Purdue and three executives pleaded guilty to misbranding
OxyContin and agreed to pay $634.5 million to resolve another
Justice Department investigation.
(Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston and Jonathan Stempel in New
York; Editing by David Gregorio, Jeffrey Benkoe and Susan Thomas)
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