Massachusetts AG May Sue Big Pharma Over Prescription Drugs

By Paul Gaita 01/12/15

Massachusetts could join two California counties and the city of Chicago in suing Purdue Pharma.

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey
Attorney General Maura Healey. Photo via

Maura Healey, Massachusetts Attorney General-elect, has announced that she is actively considering legal action against pharmaceutical makers as a means of stemming the tide of opioid painkiller use and misuse that plagues the Bay State.

“I certainly won’t hesitate to take action against pharmaceutical companies that are engaged in unfair or deceptive marketing practices and aren’t being straight with the public," said Healey in an interview with the Associated Press.

Her statement is the latest salvo in a series of legal actions mounted by cities and counties across the United States that blame drugmakers for deceiving the medical profession and the public about the addictive nature of their products.

The city of Chicago filed a lawsuit against Purdue Pharma, which produces OxyContin, and four other companies in June 2014, while Orange County and Santa Clara County in California issued a similar suit in May of last year, also naming Purdue among the defendants.

A lawyer for Purdue Pharma stated that the company agrees prescription drug abuse is a problem, and points to their reformulation of OxyContin, as well as a nationwide settlement that delivered $8 million to the Massachusetts Medicaid program, to make it harder to misuse as proof of their serious regard of the matter. But the statistics for opioid abuse do not prove that marketing was the cause of injury or death in overdose cases.

Healey remains unmoved, and notes that Governor-elect Charlie Baker is equally poised to take action against heroin and opiate addiction. Statistics for opioid abuse show that of the more than 41,000 overdose deaths in 2012, 53% were due to pharmaceutical products.

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.